The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

She dumped him after one date and took his balls with her!

Year Released : 2017

Director : Shawn Christensen

Cast : Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Blake Jenner and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

I’ve been stuck for films to review recently. I used a random film generator to find some of the movies I reviewed when I’d previously run out, but that site has since closed and so that is, amongst others, one of the reasons I haven’t reviewed as many movies in the last few years. Based on that I went to the usually reliable list of trailers on Youtube for what I want to watch, and this was the one I picked at random.

I’m fairly optimistic about “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” as Elle Fanning is usually reliable, and Kyle Chandler is one of those actors that often goes under the radar. I’m not convinced about Logan Lerman, having some decent enough additions…..and a LOT of stinkers.

Hopefully this will fall into the former, but we’ll see.

Plot

Please note that the story has several time frames shows at the same time, so below is a relative order to try and make it sound sense.

Sidney (Lerman) is a frustrated poet who is stifled at school when he is asked by his principal (Abdul-Mitten II) what he would want to write about. He soon takes inspiration from this and gets his works written in the school paper. This attracts the interest of Melody (Fanning), an anonymous girl that turns out to be his neighbour. The two start dating before the suicide of a fellow student (Jenner) starts his obsession with starting a novel.

Several years later Sidney has become a high successful author due to events that happened leading to the suicide. Despite this he is nominated for the Pulitzer awards, but the stress and an overwhelming backlash to his latest book, including the death of a young man, result in him disappearing without a trace.

Following his disappearance, a mysterious man starts burning all of Hall’s books at a local library, prompting a mysterious man (Chandler) to start an investigation.

So was it worth getting optimistic about this?

When the film started and had an intriguing opening monologue, I was invested straight away. I was impressed with what I saw and it convinced me that this was going to be a worthwhile use of time. That was the first three minutes…….the remaining one hundred and seventeen did not live up to the opening three.

This is a two hour slog of pretentious nothing. There is no purpose to this movie and the ultimate pay off to the subplots of the three separate timelines, none of which are particularly engaging, really doesn’t make it feel like it was worth two hours of your time. The cast are great, no issues there whatsoever, and the visual and acoustic aspects to the movie are definitely not in question, but the story itself is just lacking in anything even remotely worthwhile, or investing your time in.

With endless and pointless monologues, there needs to be a story there that actually makes them have some sort of meaning or be worthwhile. For example, “American Psycho” has several monologues, but they are well used as they help build the character of Patrick Bateman, and are a surprisingly key aspect to the storyline, making them memorable. I finished watching “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” no more than twenty minutes ago (at the time of writing this specific sentence) and yet not a single one of the tedious speeches stuck with me enough to even vaguely remember what they are about.

It’s not all bad, with the section where Sidney is an established actor actually being ok, with you understanding why the character is doing certain things, but the constant switching between timelines makes it near impossible to maintain an effective pace, and the characters are considerably inconsistent between them. Also, knowing what happens in the future segments makes it hard to get emotionally invested in the previous ones. For example, in one scene you find out that Sidney was divorced from Melody, but this is placed before the scene where they go on their first date. How can I possibly care about the scene of their first date when I know it is doomed before that?

Summary

Overly pretentious and completely misjudged in delivery, “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” does not represent a good usage of two hours of your time. I found myself really struggling to care about the characters because of how the film is made.

None of the cast are at fault, this is purely the failings of the screenplay and direction that has been applied. For 120 minutes you are waiting for a payoff that is completely underwhelming when it arrives.

There are far better ways to spend two hours of your life.

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