The Weinstein Company
In an era where every franchise gets a two-part finale, The Weinstein Company is taking a different approach to releasing Ned Benson's film duality The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Retitled as The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, the two distinct films (Hers and His) will be edited into one for a wide-release on September 26, while the individual installments will get a limited release later that fall. Starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby attempts to tell the story of a failing marriage from two different perspectives, with the audience finding the "truth" of the situation somewhere in the middle.
The original, two-part cut premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but when Harvey Weinstein acquired it for distribution shortly afterwards, he approached Benson about cutting them together into one film. The result, Them, will premiere at Cannes before arriving in theaters in the fall. From a distribution standpoint, it makes a great deal of sense to combine the film, as the average moviegoer would be less likely to see two separate films that tell the same story than one coherent take on it.
Though studios often split films up in order to make double the profit at the box office, in this instance, it's a smarter move for Weinstein to release just one film, since there's no guarantee that a mainstream audience will flock to see one installment of the story, let alone two. Chastain and McAvoy are both well-known and well-respected actors, but neither one of them has established themselves as a major box office draw yet, and so Weinstein can't simply rely on their star power to bring in audiences to both parts of the movie.
And since it's easier to get people to watch one film instead of two, it will likely also help Weinstein earn the film some awards attention. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby's mission to tell the same story from different perspectives helps it stand out from the other movies being released in the run-up to Oscar season, but having a single, two-hour cut of it will help encourage voters and critics to see it.
However, Benson's story was designed to be told in two parts, so cutting it into one might mean that Them loses some of the impact that the two-part film would have. Since the director himself is the one who edited it, much of his vision for the film will likely stay intact, but the additional editing a release plan means that the audience who will get to experience the film the way he intended will be much smaller.
We'll have to wait until the Them premieres at Cannes to find out whether or not a single film is the best way to present the story, but in the meantime, here's hoping Peter Jackson has learned a thing or two from this situation.
Of course, the real issue is the incongruity in the function of the pronouns at the end of the titles. Hers and His are possessive, Them is not.
Filmmaker Ned Benson is pioneering an extremely interesting new project: he is writing/directing a two connected films, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hers, which work together to tell the story of a decaying marriage from the husband's and wife's perspectives, respectively. Starring as the central pair are Joel Edgerton and Jessica Chastain. The films will exist as stand-alone pieces.
The story follows the married couple as a strain on their relationship grows throughout the husband's career as a restaurateur and the wife's return to academia. Needless to say, the idea of single story told from two divergent perspectives in two separate pieces of film is truly innovative, and is, considering the stars and writer/director, definitely an optimistic project. In addition to all of this good news, William Hurt is in talks to hop on board.
How exactly the titles comes into play, other than the apparent idea that both husband and wife are "lonely people," is yet unknown. I'm giving Benson, Edgerton and Chastain the benefit of the doubt to have earned the merit to a Beatles-inspired title. Chastain certainly did in last year's (The) Help.
Animation particularly when it comes out of the Disney/Pixar stable is one of those areas of filmmaking that regularly inspires the phrase "They don't make them like they used to." In the case of Toy Story 3 however it's more accurate to say "They have never made them like this." It's certainly not unheard of for an animated film to be good for a Pixar film to be great or for the third film in a trilogy to be outstanding (though that's the rarest of the three) but in the case of Lee Unkrich's film the sheer degree at which it exceeds at all three is not just rare it's unprecedented.
Eleven years have elapsed since Woody (Tom Hanks) Buzz (Tim Allen) and all of Andy's favorite playthings had their last adventure -- rather 11 years have elapsed since Andy stopped playing with his toys. Buoyed by Woody's never-failing devotion the gang is all optimistic that Andy will elect to bring them with him to his first year of college but as that fateful empty-nest day approaches it becomes clearer and clearer that the only toy that will be making the trek to school is Woody. The rest are all by a series of unfortunate events consigned to live out their remaining days at Sunnyside daycare. Things are actually looking up for the neglected entertainers until they realize just how careless the ankle-biters are when it comes to playing with toys.
Unfortunately there is no escape in sight for the lovable personalities Pixar has been refining for over a decade. Lotso Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) runs a tight ship at Sunnyside; the new toys are just going to have to be sacrificed to the aggressive toddlers so the old veterans can have a relaxing time with their more mature counterparts. Eventually Woody catches wind of what kind of life his old pals are being forced to live and Toy Story 3 quite brilliantly becomes a riff on classic prison escape movies as Woody seeks to breach Lotso's security measures and bring his bunch back to Andy where they belong. And while this on-the-run chunk of the film is some of the most thrilling material Pixar has ever delivered it's also some of the most touching.
Unlike most sequels not a moment of Toy Story 3 feels artificial. There's no sense that Pixar decided to make a third film because it knew that the box office would gladly support another entry; no sense that this is a cash grab (unlike a certain green ogre's most recent trip to the big screen). All of those typical sequel pitfalls are carefully avoided by a swelling sense of finality. Toy Story 3 isn't just another adventure with these characters -- there is in fact no doubt that this is their final adventure their final hoorah together. Director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt meticulously lead the audience along with bated breath the entire time culminating in a life-or-death scenario for the toys that is more heartfelt and genuine than most live-action films can ever muster.
It's astonishing how the creative team at Pixar can make you forget that what you're watching is all a bunch of digital wizardry. Maybe it's the 3D this time around maybe it's that this is the studio's most accomplished technical feat to date (there are single shots at a landfill that pack in richer detail than the entirety of the pioneering first film) that makes Toy Story 3 such an immersive experience. Or maybe it's simply because Pixar treats its property which is ostensibly for children with the utmost sincerity. The result is an overwhelming success the rare kind of film that were it a human being would be your best friend.
One could reasonably make the case that Toy Story 3 is the single best animated film ever made. I wouldn't outright agree with such grandiose claims but it's certainly not a baseless proposition that you'd be laughed at for bringing up. However with part three now tucked under Pixar's belt one could present an even better case that Toy Story is the best film trilogy ever made -- a claim I am far more comfortable signing on the dotted line for.