The Vanishing of Sidney Hall
Directed by: Shawn Christensen
Written by: Shawn Christensen & Jason Dolan
Run Time: 1h 59min
Genre: Drama, Mystery
By: Shari K. Green
3 Frames out of 5
This film is about a young, talented writer who is loved and admired by everyone. With the help of his adoring teacher, he gets a publishing deal almost overnight, comes close to winning the Pulitzer Prize and then, instead of appreciating it and enjoying his success, he vanishes. Of course, there is a lot of tragedy and melodrama in between these moments, which explains some of his character, but it’s the way the story is told you’ll have the biggest problem with.
While watching the movie I couldn’t help but compare it to Catcher in the Rye, a popular book with adolescents about a young man looking for someone to connect with. Not only does the storyline remind me of the book but the main character, Sidney (Lerman), seemed to mirror J.D. Salinger himself. The 2017 film Rebel in the Rye came to mind while watching this, as well, with both the subject matter and the writers having almost the same artistic intentions and success, yet not having an enthusiasm later in life for either one.
Unfortunately, we jump back and forth in the timeline. The first hop leaves you somewhat baffled because where we are in the story isn’t displayed particularly well. After being introduced to Sidney, you’re left to guess if the next point in the story is, in fact, a book being written or a future timeline, but you do catch on to the fact that both story A and B belong to Sidney. In school, Sidney has a friend he was once close to named Brett (Jenner), who has completely changed for the worse. Brett is cold to Sidney and cruel to others and the revelation as to why will come as a shock to Sidney but not necessarily the audience, however, it does bring us deeper into why Sidney is so troubled. When Melody (Fanning) enters Sidney’s life, you know that with her zest for life and their goals and dreams together, will finally help him find a reason to be happy, but Sidney just may have a way to mess that up, too.
Kyle Chandler plays an investigator trying to find the missing writer who couldn’t live with his self anymore after a young fan of his kills himself after reading his book. Blaming himself for his death and the loss of his friend, Sidney sets out to ruin what’s left of himself, even attempting to rid the world of his books if he can.
I liked the acting in the movie but I didn’t much care for all the moodiness Lerman continually gives us. You tire of it quickly, as do other people in his life, but being that it’s a deep psychological introspective, you accept it. It was heavy on the drama and had some slow parts in the middle but an incredibly powerful final act and a wonderful Elle Fanning helps you forget all about the issues I’ve mentioned. The score is nice and the cast is good but had it not flipped around as often as it had, the yarn might have rolled out a bit easier and watching it been a little more enjoyable.