First Look: Complete Unknown
This shape-shifting tale of the perils and pleasures of self-reinvention begins at a dinner party, when Tom’s (Michael Shannon) co-worker arrives with an intriguing date named Alice (Rachel Weisz). Tom is convinced he knows her, but she refuses to acknowledge their history. And when Alice makes a hasty exit, Tom sets off after her. What follows is an all-night odyssey shared by two people, one needing to change his life, the other questioning how to stop changing.
Directed by Joshua Marston
Written by Joshua Marston and Julian Sheppard
Starring Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Chernus and Azita Ghanizada
(To listen to our interview with Joshua Marston, click here!)
This transcript has been lightly edited:
The Referee: Oh, listeners! (laughs)
The Critic: What? Wait a minute! I’m a listener, right now. Go ahead.
Ref: You’re a listener, right now. Listen, the Critic and I got a chance to grab a Sneak Peek — and, at this point, it’s a First Look, ‘cause it’s already out in theaters. It’s called “Complete Unknown” by Joshua Marston. He not only directed it, but he also wrote it along with his cohort, Julian Sheppard, who is a famous playwright here. This is starring some pretty amazing people that we love. It’s a stellar cast, really. You have Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Danny Glover, and the great Kathy Bates, among others.
Ref: It is a movie that you’re going to have to figure out if it’s TRUTH! —
Ref: — or not.
Critic: Yeah. And, by the way, everyone, the Ref did a wonderful interview with Mr. Joshua Marston. If you haven’t checked it out, make sure that you do! But, are we going to get into what this thing is about, Ref?
Ref: Yes, but, just to add to that, you were traveling. So, that’s the only reason why your pretty little — not pretty face — obviously, your voice (laughter) wasn’t tagging along. But, yeah, let’s get to it!
Critic: Yes. So, this, everybody — it’s about Rachel Weisz’s character. Her name is Alice, so we think.
Ref: (laughs) That’s one of her names.
Critic: That’s one of her names. And she plays a woman, Alice, who is not quite comfortable being in the same place too long — being even the same person, personality, for too long —
Ref: (sings) She’s a vagabond.
Critic: (laughs) So, in the beginning, we see snapshots of her different personalities. We don’t quite know what it means from the beginning, but then we figure it out later on. And what happens is: She finds a guy, played by Michael Chernus — if you watch “Orange is the New Black,” he’s a character on that show — finds him, uses him to get back to, to reignite or reacquaint herself with, a long-lost love, played by Michael Shannon. So, they’re at this dinner party — (laughs) and the Ref is making a face, everybody, just so you know (further laughter). So, they’re at this dinner party, and Michael Shannon’s looking at her, going, “Wait a minute. Don’t I know you? Don’t I know you?” And, then, we find out what their relationship was before. And the question is this, everybody, for Rachel Weisz’s character: Is she satisfied continuing to constantly change who she is, where she lives, what her jobs are, etc.? And, is Michael Shannon OK being stuck in a rut? By the way, he is — is it a wife? Is it his wife, Ref?
Ref: Yes, his wife.
Critic: His wife — he is married, and she is trying to make a life change. She wants to go into graduate school and move. So, the question for him is: Does he want to go with her, or does he want to start life anew with Miss Alice? Oh, ho, ho!
Ref: Ooh! The plot thickens. Now, when I was interviewing Joshua, the theme came up that: Is this woman a pathological liar?
Ref: I mean, we’re saying that she’s starting anew; she’s starting over. But, this woman doesn’t only start over in a new place; she starts over with a new name —
Ref: — a new history, a new background, new likes, new desires —
Critic: She’s Jason Bourne.
Ref: (laughing) She’s Jason Bourne, completely reinventing herself. The question really is: Is she a pathological liar, or is she just an adventurer? And, how does she mesh well with society when society is split 50-50 with it? Some of them are repelled by it; some of them are drawn to the fact that she likes to move around, but she does get caught in some lies. Now, I do have to say that this is a star-studded cast, like I said before. It’s strong performances around the board, as far as what they’re given. The circumstances change and shift a lot: You start seeing her background, then they shift over to the workplace, then they shift over to a birthday party, and they shift over to a dance club, and shift over to a walk in the park (laughter), shift over to Kathy Bates — I mean, the movie really (laughter) — it does! — it really echoes her life. It just shifts everywhere. And, if you can follow along with that, the performances will carry you from place to place, I’d say.
Critic: Yeah, [I] completely agree. And that Kathy Bates-Danny Glover scene —
Critic: — was so (laughs) …
Ref: When she was on the couch, talking — eating her goat or, no, her lamb! (laughter)
Critic: But, I do have to say, Ref: I concur with everything that you said. Also, for me: For this film, the ideas of it, I thought, were very interesting. However, the challenging part, for me, was the stakes — I keep talking about this — they weren’t high enough for me to be completely compelled. That one change could have made this movie, really, a home-run, because the question — for Rachel Weisz, her character — is: How desperate is this woman? She’s very desperate; I didn’t quite feel it all the way.
Critic: Same thing for Michael Shannon: This man is tired of his life, and he doesn’t want to go to this big change with his wife. So, you know, I think if they’d upped the stakes there, it would’ve been even stronger. So, for me, why watch it? I would say, watch it for the performances, as you said. Watch it even if you’re interested in the idea of it — of all of these different changes in your life and the collateral damage, because you can’t just leave and not harm people that you’ve left behind.
Ref: And that’s the theme. That’s actually what happens, what plays out, here. For me … try this. Try this, listeners. — If you want to watch it cold: Fine, do it. — Listen to the interview. Listen to Joshua explain what he and Mr. Sheppard’s thinking was behind it. And, then, watch it from there to see if he really followed through on all of those things. That would be an interesting way to watch this movie. But, I will say this: If you do go to the movies, if you do pay that $15-$16, just be OK with the shifting, changing, always ever-complicated Rachel Weisz.
Critic: (laughs) That’s right.
Ref: Just be OK with it.
Critic: Yeah. Or, you know what, even if you want to rent it, get some popcorn, a glass of wine (laughs), you know, it’s gonna do some good. So, there you go. Excellent, Ref. Anything else you gotta tell the people?
Ref: No, they can check it out in a theater near them. It’s in select theaters, actually. So, maybe, check out the art houses or things like that, if you don’t see it in your regular theater.
Critic: That’s right, and Amazon Studios is one of the production companies. So, I’m sure it will be coming to Prime at some point. (laughs)
Ref: Mm. That’s completely unknown. (laughter)