Title: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him, Her and Them
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Ned Benson
Music: Son Lux
Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt
Nikki M. James
Rating: 5.9/10 (Them), 6.0/10 (Him), 6.1/10 (Her)
The sadness of being an incorrigible completist, I have to finish all these three films before writing my review, Ned Benson’s ambitious feature-length debut is a post-trauma story of a young couple Conor (McAvoy) and Eleanor (Chastain) in New York after losing their child in an unspecified accident, HIM hinges on Conor and HER on Eleanor in the same time period, then interweaves these two versions together, there arrives THEM, one can get an overall view of their paralleled life. So basically, I have watched the same movie twice, and certain scenes three times where the path of Conor and Eleanor converges.
The premise is resoundingly intriguing, as often cornily referred as two separate cerebral hemispheres, the film allows viewers to observe how men and women think and act differently towards the same scenario, in this case, a heartbroken tragedy. In HIM, the movie starts with one of their most intimate memory before their bereavement, an inadvertent thrill in their ordinary life sparks strong romance with Conor amorously says: “There is only one heart in this body, please have mercy on me”. Then it jumps to several months of the aftermath, Eleanor uses an extreme method to declare that their life can not sustain as the status quo, they need to take a break. Conor doesn’t understand why she needs her alone-time for her grievance, he is equally heartbroken, but he is ready to move on, leaving the tragedy behind with a seal on it, not to mention and keeps living on afterwards. He opens a bar with his best friend Stuart (Hader) and a flirty barmaid Alexis (Arianda) who is ready to “falling in love with him madly if he allows her”. Meanwhile his father Spencer (Hinds) owns a successful restaurant named after Conor’s mother, whom he dumped ages ago, it is also a thorny decision for him whether or not to swallow his pride to admit failure and take the restaurant inasmuch as his bar is on the brink of bankrupt, it is a privileged struggle as a rich kid’s blues.
In HER, no romantic prologue, Eleanor is introduced in her abrupt suicidal behavior, then she returns to her bourgeoisie parents living in the suburb (played by Hurt and Huppert, he is a university professor and she is French), she goes back to the college and takes a class of professor Lillian Friedman (Davis), before long Conor finds out her whereabouts, stalks her in the street, in the classroom and eagerly to reconnect. As Hurt carefully phrases “Tragedy is a foreign country, we don’t know how to talk to the natives”, Conor’s tentative makeup doesn’t work, Eleanor needs to be over-indulged in the past for some time before finally moving forward, plus, she can spend all the time she wants in Paris, to heal her wounds, after a whimsical but failed re-connection during a pouring rain and a vis-a-vis opening-up in the middle of the night, it is rather tedious for her to realize that she should take a real break out of the Tri-state area. The disparity erected between each and every individuals cannot be compromised, only when they arrive in the same page with the same pace, they may have a chance to start anew as a couple.
As often as he can, Benson intends to throw snappy verbal rejoinders to sound posh or vivacious, but most of the time they are ill-placed (“Now YOU sound maternal” throwaway) and uninspired, as most of the dialogues verge on beating around the bush either without any substantial function or being painstakingly predictable. Yet the two leads is recommendable in any rate, so it is safe to say the film is perfect for McAvoy and Chastain’s stalwarts, both set off a full gamut of emotional overhaul and not to mention many close-ups to let their fans luxuriate in the idolatry. Among the eclectic supporting cast, Huppert radiates in every scene simply by holding a glass of red wine in her hand, and Davis thrusts her raw gravitas into her casual bantering with her THE HELP (2011) co-star, as an outsider, she is the one who pierces through the surface without any scruples, only if she could have more screen time in it.
The indie soundtrack is an understandable trapping of the prevalent mumblecore output, it’s ambient, moody and meditative, tailor-made to outline the disposition of the storyline. Collectively speaking, the films attempt to be artistic and unique, it could have hit the bull-eye with all such a talented group, only if it could subtract the permeating tint of narcissism, and conjure up some more salient epiphany. At last, the THEM version abridges some minor sequences and merges HIM and HER with an intact take on the proceedings. There is no new scenes added, so one can choose to watch HIM and HER, or THEM, either is sufficiently competent to disclose its allure and drawbacks.