MOVIE: COMPLETE UNKOWN
STARRING: RACHEL WEISZ; MICHAEL SHANNON; KATHY BATES; DANNY GLOVER
DIRECTED BY: JOSHUA MARSTON
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 Stars (Out of 4)
Complete Unknown uses its star power in attempt to propel a bad movie into a mediocre one, but unfortunately, what's needed is a script with more meat in the pages to make it a success. This is the biggest problem with the newest film from director Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace). Sporting two solid performances from Michael Shannon and Rachel Weisz, Complete Unknown feels like a short story stretched as far as it could go, before it leaves our characters grasping out for the plot to take them somewhere.
The film opens with a montage of a woman with many different looks, ranging from hipster in overalls to a mysterious, jet-black straight haired vixen. Her name is Alice (Weisz), but she has gone by many different names. Her motivation of life has been to establish herself as someone special, while engaging in a relationship with a disposable lover. She has the talent to become anyone she would like to be, whether that's as a nurse or a scientist who inspects frogs. The thrill of it all, is getting out when she's had enough, but when her path leads to the birthday party for ex-lover- Tom (Michael Shannon), it makes for an uncomfortable scenario. Her lies will be dug up. The hopes of escaping your past, no matter how hard you try, will find its way back.
Having two acting thoroughbreds such as Weisz and Shannon is a good start to a successful film. The Oscar winner and nominee, both bring a thespian style of gravitas to Marston and Jullian Sheppard's screenplay. In fact, multiple scenes would fit better on the stage, especially during Alice's first arrival to the birthday party with Tom's co-worker/friend Clyde (Michael Chernus), placing her in a room with Tom's wife Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) who becomes quite impressed with Alice, while she bounces around like a pinball, with her lies piling with each guest she talks with. Sadly, this is one of the more exciting moments and after the film runs out of places to go.
Eventually, what follows are a sequence of conversations between the two leads, which is interesting, but that's only because I am fascinated with Shannon and Weisz, not because what is being said is special. Starting with a walk on the streets of New York, there is a brief interruption where the two give aid to a woman- played by Kathy Bates, who has fallen down, needing help into her apartment. The husband- played by Danny Glover gratefully appreciates the assistance given, till the moment of good samaritan work opens a window for Tom to peak into Alice's ways of lying. This scares Tom, so he brings whatever excitement could have been built to a screeching halt, leaving the apartment, afraid to become what Alice already is- a pathological liar.
The final half of the film involves a trip over to Alice's frog lab where Marston decides to add a slice of his artistic style, during a hypnotic walk into a room of mating amphibian sounds. When the film meanders into its ending, I felt as if there had to be something more, behind all the masks and the lies, I was more interested in what we were not being told.
Overall, Complete Unknown allows two great actors to play around with their characters and flex their performance muscles. What it doesn’t do, is give the audience a full dose of drama. Like a carrot in front of a mule, it dangles without ever giving us a nibble. There needs to be more to a story than what we have here. Something this unknown, needs to be much more complete.
Written by: Leo Brady