"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" Is Three Films In One
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
"All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?"
So go the lyrics to the Beatles song. The music for "Eleanor Rigby" lasts only a tad over two minutes.
Paul McCartney says he wanted a "name that sounded natural," so he took Eleanor from an actress he knew and Rigby from a liquor store. But later research reveals that he may have subconsciously remembered it from a gravestone in a churchyard where he met John Lennon.
Apparently this real Eleanor Rigby led a solitary life, dying alone.
The song is a lament about loneliness, so we don’t have to guess why director/writer Ned Benson appropriated the name for the title of his new movie, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby."
Be forewarned, the movie -- playing at the Tropic Cinema -- is not a murder mystery. Rather, it is a character-driven drama about two lonely people, a husband and wife, dealing with their disintegrating relationship after they share a tragedy.
As it happens, director Ned Benson tells the story three times, in three differing feature-length films: subtitled "Her," "Him," and "Them."
"Her/Him" are meant to go together, telling the same story from two separate viewpoints, the Her being an NYU psychology grad student named Eleanor Rigby, and the Him is Eleanor’s restaurateur husband Conor. Together the "Her/Him" version adds up to 201 minutes of screen time.
However, at the Tropic Cinema this week you get "Them," the shorter version, only 123 minutes. It gives you a truncated look at her story, his story, and then their fragile relationship.
Each version differs in the telling. This approach seems very original, until you see it done better in "Gone Baby." Keep in mind, this is Benson’s debut as a filmmaker, so we’ll give him an A for effort, a C+ for execution.
Eleanor Rigby is stunningly portrayed by Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty," "The Tree of Life"), a young New York woman caught up in a doomed marriage. And her husband comes in the form of James McAvoy ("The Last King of Scotland," "Atonement"), a British actor you wouldn’t expect to see deliver such a perfect Manhattanite role.
They are surrounded by acting veterans that include William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, and Viola Davis, along with impressive performances by SLN alum Bill Hader and others.
I’d call it a "loving story" instead of a "love story."
But in the end, we’ve learned where the lonely people come from.