This shape-shifting tale of the perils and pleasures of self-reinvention begins at a dinner party, when Tom's (Michael Shannon) co-worker arrives with an intriguing date named Alice (Rachel Weisz). Tom is convinced he knows her, but she refuses to acknowledge their history. And when Alice makes a hasty exit, Tom sets off after her. What follows is an all-night odyssey shared by two people, one needing to change his life, the other questioning how to stop changing. Written by
"Complete Unknown" (2016 release; 92 min.) brings the story of Alice (played by Rachel Weisz). In the pre-credit opening montage, we see her in a number of completely different settings (emergency room nurse, magician's assistant, pianist, etc.) Who is this person? After the opening credits, we get to know Alice, now a biologist in New York. She takes an interest in a guy at the cafeteria, and it's not long before they befriend. One evening they go to a dinner party to celebrate the birthday of her friend's co-worker (played by Michael Shannon). Shockingly, the co-worker recognizes from a prior life, 15 years ago, and confronts her. Why did she vanish without a trace all those years ago? Why did she come back? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director Josh Marston. Here he tackles a potentially intriguing promise: a woman seemingly drops off the face of the earth 15 years ago, and then returns, all the while spinning tales (are they true? or made up?) about her exploits in Australia, China, Mexico, and so on. The first half hour of the movie is the best, as at that point we are barely understanding what is going on, keeping us hungry to understand the full picture (is Alice battling multiple-personalities disorder? is she a con-artist? a femme fatale? delusional? all of those?). As that full picture emerges, regrettably (but perhaps unavoidably) the mystery is lifted and the movie loses some of its appeal (but not interest). Rachel Weisz absolutely shines in the lead role, and to see her in all these different settings is a true delight. Michael Shannon at times seems to struggle to keep up with Weisz on the screen. Kathy Bates and Danny Glover play an elder couple (one long scene, maybe 10 min. of screen time). The movie flew by in no time, but I also have to be honest: the ending baffled me, and not in the best way. Last but not least, there is a wonderful score, courtesy of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrians.
The movie premiered at the Sundance festival earlier this year and was snapped up by Amazon Studios, yes, this is yet another movie release from Amazon, The movie finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati and I couldn't wait to see it. The early Friday evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely, but by no means anywhere near a sell-out. If you are interested in a character and relationship drama that seems it could go in many different directions, and stars the lovely and talented Rachel Weisz, I'd suggest you check out "Complete Unknown", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on VDV/Blu-ray, and give it a try.
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