By David Poland email@example.com
Review: The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby – Him & Her
I am really happy that this movie is Ned Benson’s first feature… because it means that he can learn to use his talents for good and not evil.
Ned Benson reminds me so of Scott Rosenberg. Remember him? Yeah… I know… hottest writer in Hollywood for six or seven years, then, BAM!, TV guy fading into obscurity. I still remember reading the screenplay (which I hate doing… but back then SR was “the next Tarantino” and I couldn’t resist) of Things To Do In Denver While You’re Dead, on a beach, and squealing with pain, making the occasional gagging sounds.
I enjoyed the indie delights of Beautiful Girls, though I thought it was wildly overrated. But such a great cast! On Con Air, Simon West distracted from the look-at-me writing for that great cast to have a party for us: I’m the audience. And I still find it hard to believe that the beauty that is High Fidelity had more than a few lines from Mr Clever.
I don’t really know what wall Rosenberg hit, but he was always an all-trees, no forest writer in my eyes (and ears).
I should have known from the oh-so-clever title that The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby was trouble. If that wasn’t enough, it was broken into two connected, but allegedly stand-alone-able films, Him & Her. But I was encouraged by others to try it… so I did.
Without giving up any spoilers, the movie(s) is/are about a couple going through the break up of a relationship after the death of their child. How old was the child? Well, we find out in the 3rd act of the Him film, which meant, in the order I which I saw them, nearly 3 hours of not knowing. That’s how important the death of the child is in this film.
But many people seem to like the film. And it’s loaded with some of my favorite actors. What’s that all about?
Well, it’s a lovely series of actors’ monologues and duologues. Catnip. In spite of the lack of any real narrative or dramatic cohesion in the scenes, the dialogue is crazy clever. “I only have one heart in this body, so take it easy on me.” Oh, fuck you!
Let me say again, LOVE these actors. Chastain. Bill Hurt. Huppert. McAvoy. Hinds. Viola Davis. Even comic receivers Bill Hader and Jess Weixler get some great lines.
But in terms of the overall film, this reminded me of the second season of “Up All Night,” when the kid thing wasn’t really working, so they started doing couple stories, throwing in the child now and then as a proof of concept. Only this is much worse, as the child is dead and, in theory, the catalyst for all events. But watching the film, you’d think they just grew apart or some such traditional banality. I’d be okay with that. But using a dead child as a McGuffin is grotesque.
There are people who will love this film based on the dialogue and actors alone. I get that. But that’s a little like committing to marry someone based on what they look like naked and nothing else. It may be temporarily exciting, but there has to be more or boredom will soon set in.
And what about the Him/Her idea? Interesting on its face. But in practice here, lame. I counted about 4 significant variations from one segment’s story to the other… and none of them make much sense. They are of the “how we remember things” variety… but what is remembered differently doesn’t really make much sense.
All this said, Ned Benson is clearly a very talented guy. The movie is nicely shot. He doesn’t have first-timer’s disease. And he clearly knows how to let actors do their work.
But cut the clever in half, man. The movie is so ripe with self-indulgence it would make Aaron Sorkin gag.