It seems like only yesterday when Harrison Ford was welcoming his son home with his new girlfriend only to find out he used to date the same woman at college in the ‘60s. That was Age of Adaline a few years ago. It had a stellar cast, and a promising first half. The movie didn’t work out so well in the third act.
Complete Unknown, with a similar premise, stops working at about the middle, too. And that’s a shame, because this is a much more intriguing cast.
Tom (Michael Shannon) is having a birthday party that he shows up late for. His colleague (Michael Chernus) is bringing a woman (Rachel Weisz) he recently met and is interested in dating. We are shown a scene of her purposely arranging the meeting with this guy, after seeing online that he works with Tom.
Of course, when Tom walks in, he immediately recognizes her. Yet instead of just saying, “Hey Alice! What happened to you? You disappeared 15 years ago, and your parents always wondered.”
Instead he plays dumb.
The birthday party is a lot of fun. It’s nice to watch a movie with adults, acting like adults. They’re talking about their jobs, gently ribbing each other. Weisz talks about studying this rare frog and the group is amused by audio she plays of them singing. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last you see of the frogs. There’s a scene that…goes on for a bit…and it’ll have you missing those frogs that fell from the sky in Magnolia.
I realized then that the opening sequence was showing Weisz in a series of different jobs. For some reason, I didn’t recognize her with the different haircuts (one as a magician’s assistant in China, I thought it was a Chinese woman with the makeup around the eyes).
It’s a tradition for the group to go dancing after Tom’s birthday party, so that’s where the group ends up. This gives the opportunity for Tom to really grill her about where she’s been, and why she’s disappeared.
It’s at this point that things just go off the rails for me. The couple go outside to discuss things. Now, this is his birthday. His gorgeous wife is inside the place and…how do you think that’s going to go over? Especially when she’s already ticked off that he doesn’t want to go to San Diego for an opportunity she has.
But the couple go outside anyway, and see a woman trip (Kathy Bates), and help her back to her place (where Danny Glover waits). This is where we get to see Weisz in action, making up stories about how Tom’s a doctor and can look at her foot, and then her back. He seems to enjoy this, and may even understand why Weisz disappears and makes up fake identities and stories to fit those identities. The problem is…it makes no sense at all. It also doesn’t make sense as to how she can do that. She ends up getting really interesting jobs, and a whole new set of credit cards with each changed identity. Uh…is it really easy to do that? This isn’t a job flipping burgers, but a registered nurse, a scientist, etc. And how do you get credit cards with new names, with no credit history, etc.
Writer-director Joshua Marston (The Forgiveness of Blood, Maria Full of Grace) doesn’t seem to know what type of movie he wants to make. There’s no mystery about it, because we figure out early on, they’re not going to give us any.
At least Tom has the sense to tell her she’s crazy and her logic makes no sense. Although I’m not so sure a guest at the party confronting her with these questions really works. Hey…if she wants to be like “a rolling stone…with no direction home…like a complete unknown” — there are certainly ways to do it where your parents aren’t worried, you have a few close friends, or…oh hell, why am I trying to figure out her motivations when the filmmakers didn’t.
This is the second movie Weisz is in this weekend, and both of them have their moments, but aren’t worth heading out to see.
This gets 2 stars out of 5.