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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ned Benson
Cast:
James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarin Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Jess Wexler
Writing Credits:
Ned Benson

Synopsis:
One couple's story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$93,245 on 139 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$587,774.

MPAA:
Rated R

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 2/3/2015

Bonus:
• Q&A with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2015)

For a relationship story with a twist, we go to 2014’s The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. We meet a young married couple, Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain). After an idyllic prologue that shows the couple’s love for each other early in their time together, we see Eleanor jump into a river as an apparent suicide attempt.

Eleanor survives but this leads to her separation from Conor. Eleanor goes to live with her parents (William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert) while Conor moves in with his detached father (Ciarin Hinds). We follow the course of their relationship from there and gain insights into what led the its decline and Eleanor’s drastic measure.

When I mentioned a twist involved with Disappearance, it comes from the movie’s origins. Writer/director Ned Benson developed this as two separate shorter movies, one that focused on Eleanor and one that concentrated on Conor. This version –subtitled “Them” – edits those two together into one coherent piece.

Because the Blu-ray includes the two original versions – called “Him” and “Her”, of course – I’ll be able to view the project in that way. As I write, though, I’ve not yet checked out those cuts, so my opinions will solely reflect the construction of “Them”.

I have to admit I’m tempted to wait until I see “Him” and “Her” to say anything, as I’m curious to see how they compare to “Them”. Going into the movie, I expected a variation on the Rashomon style, and apparently when I see “Him” and “Her”, that’s what I’ll find - to a certain degree, at least.

But “Them” doesn’t follow that approach at all, so it delivers a much more conventional effort than I anticipated. Heck, even the main title doesn’t make a ton of sense for “Them”, as Eleanor doesn’t ever disappear. Sure, she shuts down emotionally in some ways, but so does Conor, so the notion of a “disappearance” feels more perplexing than anything else.

Whether or not I’ll like the bifurcated “Him”/”Her” approach better remains to be seen, but “Them” on its own seems like a mixed bag. On the positive side, the movie comes with a stellar cast. In addition to the actors already mentioned, we find talents like Viola Davis and Bill Hader. Across the board, all the performers do quite well.

In particular, Chastain and McAvoy excel in their parts. They give their characters depth and dimensionality absent from the script and bring out nuances that add breadth to the film. When “Them” prospers, it does so due to the cast.

I also like the overt lack of dramatics on display. Outside of the suicide attempt early in “Them”, most of the movie remains low-key and subtle, which seems like a good approach to the material.

I say “seems like” because “Them” tends to be slower and more navel-gazing than I’d prefer. While I appreciate the movie’s understated approach, it lacks the character meaning to involve the viewer. No matter how hard the actors try, the roles remain without much substance, so we don’t get a good feel for them.

Because of this, the audience stays at a distance and doesn’t invest much in Conor, Eleanor or anything about the movie. While I don’t demand – or want – melodrama or fireworks from “Them”, without character depth, we find little more than an endless series of fairly banal conversations.

Perhaps “Him” and “Her” will fare better, as perhaps they’ll use their extra screen time to flesh out themes/personalities in a more compelling way. As it stands, “Them” brings us an erratic, semi-superficial tale that fails to turn into anything memorable.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a positive presentation.

For the most part, sharpness looked good. A little softness crept into the image at times, but not frequently. Instead, the movie almost always appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

In terms of colors, the movie went with a stylized palette that varied based on character. Eleanor’s side favored orange, while Conor’s went with teal. The hues consistently seemed clear and concise within those parameters. Blacks were deep and firm, and shadows showed good smoothness. Overall, the picture appeared solid.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked pretty well. The audio tended to be somewhat restrained most of the time, but some sequences – such as those at bars or on the street – opened up the spectrum in a satisfying manner. Cars and other elements moved around the room, while other effects added a good sense of ambience.

Audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Speech showed nice clarity and naturalism, and music was reasonably distinctive and dynamic. Effects lacked much to stand out, but they appeared accurate, and they showed mild punch when necessary. All of this seemed good enough for a “B-“.

In terms of extras, we open with a Q&A with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain. In this 21-minute, 28-second piece, the actors discuss story/character areas, aspects of how “Them” mixes “Him” and “Her”, other cast and performances, and reactions to the film. We get a pretty good look at various topics in this enjoyable overview.

On a second disc, the prime attraction comes from the two “individual” versions of the tale. We find The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him (1:36:09) and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her (1:45:38). These offer the same story as “Them” but stick to the individual perspectives of Conor (“Him”) and Eleanor (“Her”).

Though “Him” and “Her” bring us a combined running time of nearly three and a half hours, that doesn’t mean we find 202 minutes of unique material. However, it comes close, as we don’t see much in one version that also appears in the other – and even the same events come via alternate perspectives. For instance, both films include a sequence in which Conor passes a note to Eleanor, but the viewpoints vary. We also get very different takes during a scene in which Eleanor finds out what Conor’s been up to during the separation.

This set doesn’t come with a commentary or any discussion from writer/director Ned Benson to tell us why “Them” came to exist. From what I’ve gleaned online, I get the impression Benson originally just planned to make “Him” but when he cast Chastain, he expanded “Her” as well.

So what led to “Them”? Commercial considerations, I suppose, as two separate feature films would be a tough sell. Not that it mattered, as “Them” earned no bucks at the box office anyway, but at least one two-hour movie seems like it’d be easier for the audience to swallow than two feature-length pieces.

Whatever the rationale behind “Them” may be, “Him” and “Her” deliver substantially superior experiences. By comparison, “Them” feels choppy and rushed, as “Him” and “Her” let the material breathe and develop. I won’t say “Him” and “Her” rectify all the flaws of “Them”, as the dialogue can still be clunky and there’s more navel-gazing than I’d like – especially in “Her” - but I nonetheless feel these two flicks combine to present a pretty impressive character study.

Footnote: I think the package fits best if the viewer checks out “Him” first and then watches “Her”.

Disc One opens with ads for Lawless and Blue Valentine. No trailer for Disappearance appears here.

When viewed as intended via two separate movies, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby works fairly well. However, the edited “Them” feels less satisfying and effective. The Blu-ray presents solid picture and acceptable audio along with the more interesting “Him” and “Her” versions of the film. If you get this release, do so for “Him” and “Her”, as “Them” falls flat.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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