INDIEWATCH: ‘Eleanor Rigby’ disappeared with a plot

In a crowded restaurant, Conor says to Eleanor: “Would you still love me if I can’t pay for dinner?” They make a break for it, and land in a “Twilight”-esque meadow except it’s Central Park and it’s night time.

“There’s only one heart in this body,” Conor says. “Have mercy on me.”

Petty theft really turns them on. netflix.com

Petty theft really turns them on. netflix.com

In the next scene, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) jumps off of a bridge, cue the aching question: What happened? And “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” attempts to answer.

Soon, it’s revealed that the two are man and wife. When Eleanor is released from the hospital post-suicide attempt, she wants nothing to do with Conor (James McAvoy).
She crashes with her parents, chops off her hair and takes classes at a New York college, where she befriends Professor Friedman (Viola Davis). On their first meeting, they talk her Beatles-inspired namesake. After an anecdote of how Eleanor’s parents met:
“You must detest the Beatles,” says Friedman. And Eleanor: “No, not really.”
That was it, cut and dried.

“The Disappearance” jumps from Eleanor to Conor, whose restaurant — which he runs with his best friend Stu (Bill Hader) — is struggling. In his spare time, Conor calls his wife, visits her parents’ house and mini-stalks her on busy New York streets.

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that's named after a Beatles song. netflix.com

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that’s named after a Beatles song. netflix.com

 

Save for one flashback to their high-schoolish automobile coitus, it’s difficult to see what Conor’s fighting for, and this reviewer began to lose interest about halfway through. While this film teeters on the family tragedy that led to Eleanor’s death-dive, there was very little to illustrate the couple’s happiness at any time in the relationship. With barely anything to juxtapose, the plot conflict left much wanting.

This reviewer is a huge fan of both lead actors, but Chastain as Eleanor is emaciated — rightly so for the character — but her performance comes across as emotionally constipated. Chastain does numb and angry — accurate for a depressed character. But with films like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Jolene,” her talents felt wasted here.

McAvoy as Conor effectively plays lovelorn and aimless, enlisting huge empathy and some slight annoyance. Some other heavy hitters in Eleanor’s parents: French actress Isabelle Huppert as Eleanor’s wine-glass touting mother and William Hurt as her stern and authoritative pops. And none really have a place to shine here.

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in "The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them." netflix.com

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in “The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them.” netflix.com

“The Disappearance” plays at identity and self just enough to sense an overarching theme. Eleanor takes an Identity Theory course. She refuses intimacy with another man because “he’s a stranger.” Conor’s father says, “Mostly people are just fading away.” At two points, both Conor and Eleanor ask if they seem different to which another responds: “You look the same to me.”

Yes, tragedy is a gaping wound that few can see.

Both Conor and Eleanor’s fathers channel Socrates or Thomas Aquinas, and it doesn’t seem to fit. “Tragedy is a foreign country,” says Eleanor’s father. “We don’t know how to talk to the natives.”

These jabs at something larger also left much wanting.

And the crux: “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is one of a three-part film by director Benson. After completing this segment, there’s a large inclination to continue. But on the other hand, tell a complete story in two hours or maybe don’t tell it at all.
It’s a good Beatles song, though.

Grade: C-

“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them”

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis

Screenwriter/director: Ned Benson

Time: 2:02

Rating: R for language

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant

‘X-Men: First Class’ gets a C-

I was pumped to see “X-Men: First Class.” East Grand Forks’ River Cinema played it on three screens at midnight Friday, and it seemed the attendance only called for one. This kinda describes the movie as a whole. Big budget, big premise, disappointing results.

The screenwriter had the same problem as the creators of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” So many awesome characters (that some of us grew up with) and not enough time to do them justice. Continuing the “X-Men Origins” series might be just the ticket. There is the risk of it laming out, i.e. “Daredevil” spinoff, “Elektra,” but we’d get the back story and the action.

Michael  Fassbender did a great Magneto, Kevin Bacon seemed to channel Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds” ) as Sebastian Shaw and Jennifer Lawrence overdid it as Mystique. (To be fair, I’d only ever seen her rocking nuance and subtlety in  “Winter’s Bone.”) “Mad Men’s” January Jones fit right into the 60’s time period, James McAvoy’s general likability made him a great pick for Charles Xavier, and hot, young stars Rose Byrne, Zoe Kravitz and Nicholas Hoult were young and hot.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS CAST

The film did a great job of giving weight to Magneto’s motivation, his relationship with Professor X and the effects of ongoing alienation and persecution. (Spoiler alert) One scene, Magneto shoots missiles back at military men and Professor X says “They’re men with families. They’re just following orders.” Magneto: “I’ve been at the mercy of men following orders. Never again!” (If you’re not keen to Magneto’s back story, he’s a Holocaust survivor.)

I’ve got to cut “X-Men: First Class” some slack. That’s not too bad of a sign when at the end of a movie, I want more. I’ll definitely watch it again and what ever else is released with the “X-Men” stamp.

And no matter how far from adolescence I get, I’m still hoping my mutant powers will kick in.

Here’s the trailer. Click here to read other movie reviews.

Upcoming summer movies

Have you seen “Thor” already? Are you excited about “Hangover Part II”? Have you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and are you pumped for the movie that comes out Aug. 12?

This might be the summer of sequels with all of these releases: “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Cars 2,” “Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World,” “Final Destination 5,” and of course, the much-anticipated “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.” We’re all going to have a lot of movies to choose from.

I’m looking forward to the “X-Men: First Class,” a prequel to the movies. I grew up watching the TV show on Saturday mornings and I was disappointed with the way the movie trilogy ended, but I’m going to give it another go. The prequel has a star-studded cast: James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence of “Winter’s Bone, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, January Jones of AMC’s “Mad Men” and Zoe Kravitz. Here’s the trailer.

X-Men isn’t the only movie based on a comic book that’s coming this summer. “Green Lantern” will be out in theaters June 17 and “Captain America: The First Avenger” out July 22.

In the Herald’s Friday Arts section, we asked for you movie-goers to talk about what you’re looking forward to seeing, what sequels you think shouldn’t be released or how well you predict they’ll measure up at the box office. Here’s your platform. Please feel free to comment. Let’s get a discussion going.

Click here for a list of this summer’s flicks, click here to read a summer movie guide.