'Eleanor Rigby' Could Use Some Actual Momentum

Sep 25, 2014

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in the version currently circulating, is a cut down two-hour combination of a three-hour double feature that will go into limited release next year, and which I hope we get to see, because the present version left me rather unsatisfied.

It seems that James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain have come off a rather ordinary relationship that neither one of them can quite get rid of. McAvoy, who seems a trifle immature, is sure they can get back to where they broke off and try it all again. But Chastain senses (even if she doesn't consciously understand) that they can briefly recover the old pizzazz but in the morning would have to face the old disappointment again. And she won't risk that.

That this is a common, if not inevitable, pattern is suggested by indications that both McAvoy's father, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, and Chastain's father, William Hurt, have survived the same experience, and Viola Davis, who hasn't gone through it, understands it and says people get over it.

The theme of Eleanor Rigby requires that McAvoy and Chastain keep going through similar episodes over and over, as people in their situation do, but the result is a feeling of stasis that isn't dramatic, and the fact that we are way ahead of them makes it hard to keep sympathetic with them.

As is usual these days, individual scenes are well written, but they seem slowly paced because Chastain, especially, reacts to everything very slowly and McAvoy is pretty inarticulate. There is little sense of forward movement in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and I can't imagine how next year's release of the full version can do much about that.

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