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A woman from a man’s past, long since a memory but not forgotten, returns after 15 years and so begins the questioning of why she left and where she went?
Alice, or Jenny (Rachel Weisz) for the last 15 years has lived around 9 different lives. All stemming from this desire to not be pinned down, trapped, and unable to free yourself from life’s pitfalls of monotony. Yet there seems to be one person she can’t shake as she travels the world and changes who she is in each place. That man is Tom (Michael Shannon). A man she once liked, who seemed like he could be some form of escape. Yet, he couldn’t give her what she wanted and combined with a slew of other issues, not he isn’t the main reason, she left.
Now she has come back into his life and there is some desire for him to understand. Though who knows if he may be able? Much less willing. For while he has long moved on, confronting this ghost of his past isn’t easy.
“Almost. Which in a way is worse than nothing because you think if you hold on and shift one little thing…”
— Complete Unknown
[…] when everyone around you thinks they know who you are and they try to lay claim to you, then you’re trapped. That’s the hard part.
— Complete Unknown
There is something ever so peculiar about Weisz and the movies she chooses to participate in. To me, she is perhaps the main draw and Shannon benefits from being in her presence, trying to follow her lead, and even emulate her character’s ability to be a chameleon. For it is with this you see a quiet confidence as Alice, or Jenny, sort of cons people. If not embellishes on what she already has and knows, and adapts them to fit a whim until she has settled into an acceptable character.
Which, to me, was something I craved more of. We are told she had 9 different lives over the course of 15 years and so badly I wanted to see more of each. If only because the current one Alice seems so dull in comparison to the one who was a magician’s assistant in China, the one who was Consuela living with a stranger in central America, and the slew of others. Mind you, this isn’t to say Alice is dull period, but it is just hearing about these various lives Jenny lived makes you wish you got a taste of them all.
It is sort of weird, or perhaps difficult, to have a character like Jenny be introduced, after we meet Tom’s friends and wife, and with her introduction comes a whole new story they are not a part of. To explain better, Jenny is reintroduced to Tom through a mutual friend Clyde (Michael Chernus). Clyde brings Jenny, then Alice, to Tom’s birthday party in which, the day of, Tom learns his wife Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) is getting a two-year opportunity to really learn how to design jewelry and launch her own line in California. Tom has a life and job in New York which, while unfulfilling, he doesn’t want to simply abandon. Yet, to accommodate Jenny becoming the main focus, and get reasserted as the female lead, all the issues regarding whether or not Tom may move to California or have Ramina go by herself, much less how he may handle things with Clyde and their work, go unresolved. Leaving you to wonder why weren’t all these characters cut and Alice didn’t just appear directly to Tom? He could have still brought up his indecision, but we wouldn’t be left introduced to all these lives without any sort of resolution.
Hence why I’m rather on the fence about this movie. I adore what Shannon, and especially Weisz, and their characters, bring to the movie, but it just seemed like Tom’s big decision could have been crafted better. Be it the movie downsizing the cast and making his wife and friends just talked about, placing more focus on Jenny’s life and where Tom could fit into it in the future, or maybe other options? Either way, while enjoyable, and another oddly formed gem of Weisz, it isn’t something you must see. Though I do feel you would be rather entertained by it.