A24 is back with one of their latest films, The Vanishing of Sidney Hall. It’s always interesting to me how some companies and brands can get such consumer loyalty and have themselves stand out in a crowd. A24 seemingly came out of nowhere five years ago and has an eclectic array of films. On social media and Reddit, they have numerous fans eagerly awaiting their releases without even knowing what the film might be about. While they do produce some of their films, a lot of them seem to be just purchased with no hand in their production. So why do people latch onto their films so adamantly?
Well for one, their marketing is generally fantastic. A lot of these films are lower budget indie movies at their core, but they get the buzz out like some of the big studios. They actually spend the money and build anticipation and it’s starting to work in spades as highlighted by the success of films like Moonlight. We go into this a little bit more in the intro to our Films from the Basement Podcast of the film Good Time.
So I was kind of surprised when The Vanishing of Sidney Hall came out to little or no acclaim. Usually, I don’t look at review scores from other places until after I am done writing, but my curiosity got the best of me on this one. This disparity between the critics and the user scores is quite surprising. Just check Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic for yourself. When critics are rating a film between 10-20% and the moviegoers are at 80%, the film had some sort of disconnect and I’ll try to touch upon what I think it could be.
The Movie Itself (4/5)
The narrative is told in three concurrent parts of Sidney’s life at ages eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty. The tales are interwoven between each other with the scenes jumping constantly between each. At first, this was a little daunting and hard to follow, but it quickly meshes together into an interesting and heartbreaking tale. If the movie were to go in narrative order it simply wouldn’t work as the audience is fed just a little bit at a time so they can make their own assumptions.
The title The Vanishing of Sidney Hall lends itself to how in his mid-twenties, Sidney, a famous author, just up and disappeared. A detective (Kyle Chandler) is trying to track him down. He is following a string of miniature arsons where Sidney’s books are getting set ablaze in various stores and libraries across the country. So why did Sidney give everything up?
Sidney’s high school days are fraught with apathy and rebellion. Luckily, his weapon of choice is his words and writing. He has a unique relationship with Blake, the captain of the football team. He also has a crush on the girl across the street (Elle Fanning). These interactions set the course for Sidney’s life and his written works that he will soon make him (in)famous.
Since the film uses Sidney as an author for its vehicle, you’ll see a lot of reviewers get to use their favorite buzz words like pretentious and contrived. While he is certainly younger than some, there have been many authors who have burst onto the scene with a hugely popular/controversial novel. Even though he is listed as a finalist for a Pulitzer, the film doesn’t showcase Sidney as having this huge great importance. He even thinks the other finalist is better and should win. If anything the film gives a human side to someone that feels isolated and alone.
Logan Lerman was a convincing choice for Sidney. All three of the different parts of his life were played with a unique flair, where you could see his as the same person but one that was molded by the tragedies and successes that happened in his life. The other actors were solid and I enjoyed their interactions with Sidney. His parents and home life, while still leaving a lot unanswered, was able to show how Sidney’s childhood was shaped.
I don’t want to go much more into the plot because the beauty of this film is how the different storylines flesh out. There are plenty of surprises. Some of which they foreshadow and are easy to figure out, while others are hidden between just a little bit deeper. The film was an intriguing ride and certainly one I’ll watch again.
I did want to know more about his life with his parents. Some parts were glossed over, especially relating to his father. I could have even used some more Nathan Lane as his agent as he was a nice little comedic element in a somewhat drearier and drearier plot. Also, they could have worked a little bit better on Sidney’s beard and wig for the latest timeline. At times it looked quite decidedly fake.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4.5/5)
It’s your typically shot digital film, so detail and clarity are excellent. There are some soft spots during the darker scenes but nothing too much to worry about. I also like how each timeline kind of had its own color grading. During the school timeline, everything had neutral tones and was very bright. In his twenties, you get a lot of blues and greys and darker shots which kind of show what he is going through. Then in the later timeline, there are hues of browns and yellows. I think overall it helps differentiate for some even though others might not need/want it.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
This is mostly a dialogue driven film and the DTS 5.1 surround is more than capable. It never gets pushed very far, but the ambient sounds in the various scenes stand out nicely. Dialogue has nice clarity and fidelity. The soundtrack is very safe throughout the film. I don’t think that is a detriment though in a film like this. It supplements the scenes and blends in nicely.
Special Features (1/5)
Making of The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (13:57) Kind of standard EPK fare consisting of mostly interviews with the cast. They did actually talk about and focus on a lot of the side characters and how there actors got attached to the film. Interesting enough to watch if you enjoyed the film, but nothing in-depth that some will want.
- Lady Bird
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer
- The Florida Project
- The Disaster Artist
- A Ghost Story
- UV Code
- Double Cutout Eco-Case
- Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH
Runtime 121 Mins
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall Overall (4/5)
Being always intrigued by the films A24 purchases, I was certainly looking forward to The Vanishing of Sidney Hall. I am more than satisfied with the turnout. It had a compelling narrative, solid acting, and just enough twists and turns. I can certainly see why some don’t like it, but it is competently made and does not deserve ones and twos out of ten scores. The Blu-ray is technically solid and comes with a digital code to add to your library as well. We all know you are going for a complete A24 collection and this should fit right in.
The Blu-ray is out now on Amazon and also on digital.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.