Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are ex-lovers whose secrets unravel in disappointing drama

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A talented cast, a decorated director, an invigorating mystery: "Everybody Knows" has all the elements of an engrossing thriller. 

What it doesn't have is a satisfying conclusion, which is where this tale sadly unravels as it sputters to a close.  

Penélope Cruz is Laura, who returns to her hometown outside of Madrid to attend a wedding. Her husband stays behind in Argentina, and Laura catches up with a family friend, Paco (Javier Bardem, Cruz's real life hubby), who happens to be her ex-lover.

When Laura's daughter Irene (Carla Campra) is kidnapped, the search is on to find her and meet the demands of the kidnappers. Paco offers to sell his share of the winery he purchased from Laura's family to cover the ransom money. Things get personal, secrets are spilled, tensions arise.  

Writer-director Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar nominee for "A Separation," expertly lays out the characters, their motivations and their relationships to one another, setting the table for a feast involving blood ties, class structure and personal loyalties. But the meal never arrives, and with prep work as accomplished as this, it comes as a letdown.

Cruz and Bardem are so good you could watch them reading menus for an hour. They're not the issue. It's Farhadi's script, which feels like he lost the ending to his mystery and had to piece something together on the fly on the last day of shooting.

A great finish can save an otherwise ho-hum movie, just as a flat ending can undo an otherwise strong one. "Everybody Knows" is an example of the latter. It's disappointing for everybody involved. 

'Everybody Knows'

GRADE: C

Rated R: for some language

Running time: 133 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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