First Hit: Although I liked the film, story and the acting, this film is not for everyone.
The opening sequence is a little confusing because it slips focus on the character’s face as it shows a montage of Alice Manning/Jennifer/? (Rachel Weisz) as a hippie botanist, a focused and in charge nurse in a trauma situation, and then as magician’s assistant in China where she drops through a trapdoor.
We get reintroduced to her as Alice Manning a woman who has just come back to the US from doing research deep in the jungles of Tasmania. She makes friends with Clyde (Michael Chernus) at a cafeteria as a way to connect with Clyde’s workmate, Tom (Michael Shannon). As it turns out, Clyde invites her to Tom’s birthday party at Tom’s house.
Alice enthralls the party’s guests with her travels and stories of her past jobs and life. When Tom walks in, there is this sense that he is questioning Alice’s stories and motive. When he goes outside, she follows, and we learn of their previous connection.
The rest of the film, for the most part, is dialogue between these two about her disappearing act. One of the most interesting statements is by Tom, when he says, he’s been working for 10 years to make a difference by writing emails in his job. He’s forever hoping that he’ll make a difference; and that is what his life is all about, hoping. He's afraid of what he'll feel and what he'll do if he actually makes a difference. During their walk they help an elderly woman who’s fallen. Helping Nina (Kathy Bates) home they meet her husband Roger (Danny Glover) and Tom discovers how easy it is to impersonate someone else.
Will Tom join Alice in making up new jobs and lives, or will he stay with the live he has, or is there another path? Regardless of the choices they make, the film suffers from scenes like them walking out to visit the frogs. It seemed extraneous. That, and other scenes, seemed to take away from the intent of the film.
I did like the thought and premise of this film where someone, in this case Alice/Jennifer, could find a way to successfully be a different person over and over again. I was reminded by the Bob Dylan song lines: "like a complete unknown, like a rollin' stone".
Weisz was strong as Alice/Jennifer and I bought her ability to change characters. Shannon was good as the intense man whose life is built on hopes. Bates and Glover were fun in their minor roles. Joshua Marston and Julian Sheppard wrote an interesting script, however it would and will only have a limited audience. Marston directed this and outside a few scenes that seemed unneeded, I liked the premise of the story.
Overall: This film will have a limited audience but, for some, it will be worth seeing.