The mysterious, beautiful woman has always been a cinematic fixture. In Complete Unknown, Rachel Weisz takes on the role, and while she is a compelling performer, the film is ultimately a Hitchcock-inspired thriller without too many real thrills.
We first see her character, Alice, in a number of different guises: as a hippie, a doctor, and most intriguingly, a magician’s assistant. She later shows up at a dinner party as the date of one of the coworkers of Michael Shannon’s Tom. Tom just knows that he knows her, somehow, but Alicia denies any connection. The plot then thickens as she reveals her multifaceted identities to him — but never quite enough. “I could be anyone I wanted, and I could do it again and again,” she says, in one of many bits of intriguing but too-expository dialogue.
The film would benefit from more exploration of Alice’s past personas. We see promising bits and pieces that allow Weisz to channel a few different versions of femininity. The interplay between Weisz and Shannon is prickly: The two help an injured woman (Kathy Bates) and Alice goads Tom into pretending he is a doctor. Tom never goes quite as far as Alice – she represents a strange life that seems in complete opposition to his unfulfilling job.
At one point Alice offers this bit of philosophizing: “When everyone thinks they know who you are, you’re trapped.” It’s true, and while Alice’s enigmatic quality is appealing, the movie she’s in, which never truly grabs us with eroticism or fear, might not be unknowable enough. The film has potential for weirdness, but stays far too tame.
Directed by Joshua Marston
Amazon Studios and IFC Films
Opens August 26, IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza