For a movie about identity & pathological lying, Joshua Marston’s Complete Unknown is pretty insipid. The story centers on Alice/Jenny (Rachel Weisz), a woman who shows up in her former beau’s town and manipulates a friendship in order to get closer to that ex-beau (Michael Shannon). The rest of the movie is a long conversation, a sort of rapprochement. One scene, featuring Kathy Bates & Danny Glover, teases out what’s exciting & addictive about assuming a false identity, but it’s as if Marston is using tweezers to get out a tumor. Moreover, what’s interesting in a narrative like this is the process of fabrication, which unfortunately gets sidelined here; Catch Me If You Can this is not. And when Marston tries to play up the film’s romantic dimension, he falls short: there’s hardly any chemistry between Weisz & Shannon. Ultimately, what stands out is a comically thrilling pair of scenes, set to The Chemical Brothers’ “Go,” one in which Shannon smolders on the way to a bar. Take a drink to that.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White