The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (The Weinstein Company)
Written & Directed by Ned Benson
Starring Jessica Chastain & James McAvoy
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a two-part cinematic concept piece about love and loss. It is the story of a couple dealing with the death of their infant son. Well-written and well-acted. But as much as the concept of giving both parents their own film helps to convey the emotional state of each, it also becomes a crutch for lazy directing. Not everything has to be a trilogy. Here there are three films when they should have stopped at two. There are two people. There need be only two movies; one for each. But even then The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby gets caught up its own ass. Enjoying the smell of its own flatulence. Because in the end this is the story of self-involved and entitled artsy archetypes that seemingly believe no one else in the world has felt the pain of loss before them. Created by the most pretentious of creatives that seemingly believes no one else in the world has made a movie before them. Great cast. Great performances. Interesting concept. Horrible execution. I wrote down my thoughts between each stanza of this epic poem and yes there will be spoilers. But then again, since these movies don’t really have much of a fucking plot, there isn’t that much to spoil.
editor’s note* From everything I’ve read about this project, I believed this was a trilogy. There were three films. But after looking at the posters, I’m thinking this was originally a two film concept that was “dumbed-down” and edited into a third film. Him & Her are two pretty good films. Or more accurately, separated parts of one film. A nice concept. Them, the third one, is horrible and ruins the experience. I watched it as a trilogy and I’m just going to post my original thoughts unedited. I got really mad. It’s not pretty.
Him (The Weinstein Company)
Written & Directed by Ned Benson
In Him, we meet a young couple who have just experienced a tragedy. They have lost their infant son. We never learn how or why. We just see what this event has done to their relationship. In Him, the husband, played masterfully by James McAvoy, is coping with this loss by trying to move ahead with his professional life.
He owns a small bar slash restaurant in the village. But like most restaurants, his is slowly losing money. His father, who owns a much more successful restaurant in almost the same area, has offered his son the job of running that one when he retires. Ciarán Hinds plays the father, while Bill Hader gives a fine performance as the main character’s best friend and the chef at his restaurant.
Him is a good movie. Kind of depressing because of the mysterious loss of the child, but well-written and with some great performances. However, Him is kind of infuriating because of the way it portrays the mother. She is not a real part of the story. She is a force of nature. Unhinged and untamable and virtually unseen. Inconsolable and unconscionable and nearly unnecessary. Jessica Chastain is amazing as this woman who leaves our hero in a lurch to grieve on her own, to grieve on his own, only to come back into his life again and again at loose intervals just to leave him again and again and again, to leave him in a twisted mess, without his child or the love of his life.
She wants to grieve alone, while he wants to be with her. It’s like they’re two different people who each lost a child and not a couple who lost one together. And because all we see is him and not her (she barely exists in his movie), it is so easy to hate her for the way she treats him. The way she leaves him. This is his story. And from my point of view, she is the villain of his story. We’ll see what I think of her after watching her in Her.
“A shooting star only lasts a second, but isn’t it better to have seen it?”
Her (The Weinstein Company)
Written & Directed by Ned Benson
In Her we finally get to know the title character. The enigmatic Eleanor Rigby; The disappearing one (sorry Chris). The mother, the wife, the daughter, the pain… THE PAIN. Her opens on a suicide attempt and instantly all the blame placed on her for his torment (the first film) is forgiven. It was easy to hate her in Him. We knew she was in pain. That was a given. But all we saw was the back of her. All we saw was her running away from him. We saw his pain but we never saw hers. And by the end of the first half hour of Her, we realize there was far too much pain there for one movie. They each needed their own.
After watching Jessica Chastain act her ass off, I feel like my heart just ran a marathon. I must be a glutton for punishment because I’m going to watch the third movie after the pounding my heart took in Her. Another stellar cast in this one with Viola Davis and William Hurt and other amazing actors as her friends and family.
Her is the story of a woman trying desperately to be someone else. Someone other than the new mother who just lost her son. Someone other than the wife who left her husband. Someone else. Her is not a whole movie however. Not a complete story. It is nothing without him. Him is a whole movie, but one where the title character is incomplete. She’s more of an idea than a character. Her becomes a companion piece for the first one. A character study. An entire film dedicated to one character’s development. It is, in fact, what was missing from the first movie. But it is not an entity in and of itself. Without Him, Her is merely a personality test. A description. A snapshot of loss… but so fucking painful.
At one point in this movie I felt like poking my own eyes out. Jessica Chastain is incredible. There’s this firefly motif that runs through both films. And at one point, after her young nephew gives her a “lightning bug” in a jar, she wakes with a desire to set it free. But when she gets to the place she wants it to fly, It doesn’t. And she begs it to wake up. And I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry as much as scream and want to poke my own eyes out. It was so painful as she begs it to wake up. We never see the child. Or the death. It isn’t even discussed in the films. All we get is her begging a firefly to wake up and it’s excrutiating.
Not much happens in Her. She goes back to school. She goes to France. She walks around aimlessly. But we see how much she loves him. And we see how much she wants to go back to a happier time. A good place. And we see this all through Jessica’s eyes and her amazing performance. The woman is a goddess.
So I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest but I’m going to watch the third movie now and trust that they do something to stop this feeling.
“Tragedy is a foreign country. We don’t know how to talk to the natives.”
Them (The Weinstein Company)
Written & Directed by The same dude that made the other ones
Starring All of the people from the first two films
FUCK!!!! What a waste of two hours. They don’t even add to the narrative. In fact they don’t even edit the stories together. They take scenes from the first two movies and show them back to back. There is nothing new. Even scenes that are in both movies but are seen from different POV are taken from one movie or the other as is. A scene from Him. A scene from Her. A scene from Him. A scene from Her. No real attempt is made to merge the two stories or even resolve the conflict.
Them is an exercise in lazy filmmaking and I had high hopes for this one. The first movie ends with her following him through the park. The second one ends with her catching up to him in the park and getting his attention. (see the progression? The promised resolution?) The third movie ends with her following him in the park. The same bloody scene from the first movie. I thought that at least they would show a conclusion to that last scene. What a sham. Not only is Them a monumental waste of time if you’ve seen the first two movies but if you haven’t seen the first two movies it makes no fucking sense at all.
Most of the energy from the other movies is edited out to keep the running time down to two hours (because we have such short attention spans, I guess). And it serves to lessen the emotional impact of the first two parts. Them is a film that makes Him & Her shittier by its existence. Way to ruin a concept with lazy film-making, guys. I mean if you’re going to edit the movies together then do that. Fucking do that. There are scenes in the first two movies that are different interpretations of the same thing and instead of reconciling the differences they just choose one of the scenes (I’m guessing with a coin flip) and they only show that. Nothing new. Nothing learned. Nothing. A waste of my fucking time with nothing to show for it. A WASTE OF MY FUCKING TIME. Them, the third Eleanor Rigby film, is a fat and steaming pile of stinking garbage.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, as a whole, is a fat and steaming pile of stinking garbage. Unfinished and unresolved. But if you have to watch it, stop at the second one. For the love of god, stop at the second one.