Of the three versions of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby that exist in the universe, this particular one is my favorite. Though The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her is undoubtedly enhanced by companion piece The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him (and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them to a slightly lesser degree), it works on its own in a way that I think is pretty special. With a top-notch Jessica Chastain performance and wonderful supporting work from the likes of William Hurt and especially Jess Weixler, not to mention James McAvoy, the performances take center stage, along with writer/director Ned Benson‘s filmmaking. It’s a little hard to discuss each version of this ambitious project separately, due to how each one offers up a different take on the same material, but this version I think is the one that offers the most complete package. Chastain gets to take center stage, Benson crafts imagery that will remind you of Terence Malick, and the story will certainly bring out the emotion in you. A relationship drama unlike any other, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a once in a generation type experience, with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her being the pinnacle of said experience. You won’t want to miss this one.
This version follows events from the perspective of title character Eleanor Rigby (Chastain). After a shocking event starts things off, Eleanor breaks away from her husband Conor Ludlow (McAvoy), severing all contact and moving from Manhattan out to the suburbs and back in with her family. Her parents Julian (Hurt) and Mary (Isabelle Huppert), as well as her sister Katy (Weixler), welcome her home, but it’s clear they don’t fully understand why Eleanor has disappeared from Conor’s life, even if they know part of their history that we won’t learn until later. We then follow Eleanor as she tries to pick up the pieces of her life, enrolling in school again, bonding with her professor (Viola Davis), and running into Conor’s friend Stuart (Bill Hader). She also notices Conor trying to make contact with her again, and eventually they begin talking again. They move in and out of each other’s lives, obviously still in love but with a chasm between them due to an unspoken tragedy. Many of those scenes between the two of them are shown from her perspective, so there’s also the concept of perception brought into the mix. It’s heavy stuff, but handled in a way that’s often quite beautiful, I must say.
Obviously, the star here is Jessica Chastain, though the entire supporting cast from her side of the story gets much more to do here. In fact, I’d say that Jess Weixler just about walks away with the film, with her character given so much more fleshing out here than in the Them version. Weixler is sarcastic, funny, and heartbreaking in equal measure. The more you learn about her, the more you want to see of her. The same goes for Chastain, but Weixler has the spunkier role. Chastain essays a damaged woman trying to make sense of her life in a way we all can relate to, with the confusion and pain never far from her face. Both Chastain and Weixler are nomination worthy, in my mind. William Hurt is another one who benefits greatly from enhanced screen time, though the other version does contain a wonderful monologue that he has at the end. Viola Davis is very good as well, playing someone not related to Eleanor who looks at her as simply the person she is. If there’s a weak link to me, it might be Isabelle Huppert, but that’s simply because her character is a bit one note in my eyes. James McAvoy pops up here and there and Bill Hader has a cameo, but most of their work is saved for the other versions, so I’ll discuss them more there. Also in the cast we have Katherine Waterston, but it’s Chastain and Weixler who blow you away.
Filmmaker Ned Benson has done yeoman’s work here. He’s got a wonderful visual style as a director, as well as a patience that allows things to play out at a slightly slower pace than you’d expect. If he has a weakness, it’s that his script delves into clichés and is on the nose here and there, but that’s not to say that his writing is bad at all, since it’s not. The screenplay is just not on the same level as the direction, aided in part by DP Chris Blauvelt. Once you see all three versions, you really marvel at how he told both one and three stories all at the same time in a way. Certain moments, especially from this version, will stay with me for a very long time to come.
Awards wise, I’d say the main hope here is Chastain in Best Actress, though it’s all dependent on which version is submitted. If she’s nominated for Her, I’d argue she could be an outside threat to win, though if it’s for Them, that could be diluted somewhat. Weixler’s long shot bid for Best Supporting Actress rests solely on Her being submitted, while I think any version offers Benson a small chance in Best Director or Best Original Screenplay. With so many other horses for The Weinstein Company, Best Picture likely isn’t in the cards, but stranger things have happened before. Especially with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, anything is possible.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her is a moving portrait of a love story, though only one version and a purposely incomplete look. I admire the film greatly and will be back tomorrow with a look at The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him, which offers the other side of the coin for the work. Especially for the performances by Chastain and Weixler, this is a version not to miss, believe me. Benson is a filmmaker that’s going places too, so take note of him. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her is a hard movie to shake, but it’s also just a very good one. This is a flick not to miss.
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!