'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby' Netflix review: Perfect for binge viewing

'The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby' Netflix review: Perfect for binge viewing

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" (Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company, used with permission)

One of the most interesting exercises in cinematic storytelling, the trio of "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" feature films (added to Netflix Instant this week), tracks the wrong side of a romance from his and her perspectives.

In short: After a tragedy unravels the marriage of young couple, grief-stricken Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) attempts to restart her life while her estranged husband Conor (James McAvoy) tries to move forward with his business and life. (Watch the trailer)

The gimmick of "Eleanor Rigby" is simple - the same general series of events is told in three iterations: "Her," "Him" and "Them," with "Him"/"Her" serving as standalone movies that compliment each other -- two halves of a single story. "Them" is a franken-movie, a patchwork of scenes from Eleanor and Conor's movies edited into a single 2-hour movie.

It's not enough that "Him" and "Her" perfectly compliment each other, effectively filling in the blanks and gaps of their respective other half, but these two movies truly tell the same story from two very different points of view. "Him" and "Her" share a hand full of scenes - but there are subtle differences in the way the same exact scenes are filmed, acted and executed.

For example: a scene between Eleanor and Conor sitting in a car in the rain. The same scene appears in "Him" and "Her," using the same exact dialogue, however each film treats the scene quite differently. The "Him" iteration is lighter and more casual, while the "Her" version is more grim and tense. Other overlapping scenes reveal small differences in phrasing and staging that belie the characters very different perspectives and points of view.

The two halves of "Eleanor Rigby" perfectly compliment each other to tell a complete narrative -- but the two parts also tell a complete emotional arch. Experiencing two different character's interpretations of the same events reveals the subjective nature of emotional truth.

This collective of three films is perfectly built for a Netflix Instant "Eleanor Rigby" triple feature. "Him" and "Her" are pretty effective as standalone films - while "Them" does its best to marry the two halves into one more cohesive narrative. If nothing else, a streaming "Rigby" triple feature marathon reveals how small, but immensely important, different variations in storytelling can create entirely different experiences.

All that said, if there was a version of "marry/boff/kill" where a viewer would be married to one "Rigby" movie, could only watch another "Rigby" movie just once and flat out murder the last remaining "Rigby" iteration, the correct answer is marry "Her," boff "Him" and kill "Them."

"Her" very nearly stands completely on its own as a pure standalone movie. Eleanor's dramatic arch is more compelling and Chastain's performance is by far the strongest in the "Rigby" experiment. The stakes of her story are much higher - as the grief-stricken wife desperately tries to restart her life.

"Him" is barely a standalone movie - as it is much more dependent on "Her" than it is able to stand on its own. Some key plot elements of "Him" simply do not make sense without watching "Her."

"Them" is an editing debacle - a forced attempt to edit down a pair of 100-minute long feature films into a single 120-minute feature. The obvious "hack and slash" approach to paring "Her" and "Him" down to a single feature film makes for a choppy, jarring movie that does no service to either Eleanor or Conor's stories. Key scenes of "Her" and "Him" are niptucked in a jagged fashion, while invaluable character-development scenes from "Him"/"Her" are chopped out altogether.

Final verdict: The collective of "Rigby" movies makes for an interesting exercise in storytelling, editing and perspective -- and any legitimate movie fan would do themselves a favor to watch all three movies back-to-back-to-back. The brilliance of "Her," however, is overshadowed by the mediocrity of "Him" and the disaster of "Them."

"Her" score: 4/5
"Him" score: 3/5
"Them" score: 2/5

"The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her," "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him" and "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them" are rated R for language and brief drug use.

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