Review: Complete Unknown (Sundance)
PLOT: A man (Michael Shannon) is convinced that the new girlfriend of a colleague is in-fact a woman he knew fifteen years ago that changed her identity.
REVIEW: COMPLETE UNKNOWN has a great premise. How many of us have fantasized about one day just chucking all the things that stress us-out in our daily lives to adopt a new identity free of any kind of attachments or baggage. Of course, we don’t do it, but COMPLETE UNKNOWN posits the theory, what kind of life would you live if you just picked up and started over every few years? It’s highly intriguing, but sadly Joshua Marston’s film is doesn’t quite deliver on the premise.
While Rachel Weisz makes for an enigmatic heroine, the film itself too often seems false. The idea that she could simply talk her way into professions like nursing, biology, business and more seem like fantasy wish-fulfillment, especially in a world where all of us have such a significant digital footprint.
Weisz’s character also feels rather thin, with her deciding out of the blue to not only visit her old flame (Michael Shannon) but by doing it in an almost sociopathic fashion by manipulating his best friend and crashing a party he’s having with his wife. Most of the film is dominated by conversation, with the first half taking place at Shannon’s party, where his guests immediately start poking holes in her stories (if they could figure her out - how could she ever hold a job?). After they leave, the film becomes slightly more interesting as she tries to entice Shannon to live in her shoes for the evening and be someone else.
Often cast as intimidating, threatening sorts, Shannon gives it his all as the somewhat unsatisfied family man, who dislikes his job and is upset because he wife wants them to relocate from NYC to California so she can pursue her own career as a jewelry designer. Shannon is very interesting as he tries to conceal the fact that he knows Weisz from his guests, even if they toy with each other a bit. A few, early, playful scenes with his wife also trade amusingly on his intensity, but this is Weisz’s show.
As they wander the city and reconnect, they encounter a sweet old couple (Kathy Bates & Danny Glover) who they convince are doctors - a possibly harmful gambit which is never acknowledged by the film. What seems like good fun to them could be dangerous to the people that are the victims of their fraud. Instead, it’s played for near comic effect.
All that aside, COMPLETE UNKNOWN would have been worthwhile if it were interesting. Despite the performances by Weisz and Shannon, too many parts of the film seem silly and worst of all, I couldn’t care less if Shannon and Weisz ever reconnected or not or if Shannon chucked his own life to be like her. I simply wasn’t invested.
COMPLETE UNKNOWN isn’t really a bad movie, but it’s an uninvolving one. Produced by Amazon Studios, this will probably hit streaming fairly soon, and it’s an OK watch just to see the stars, but it’s hollow and not especially memorable.