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There's a fascinating idea rattling around "Complete Unknown," a thriller about a woman with a gift for reinventing herself, but darned if director Joshua Marston can figure out what to do with it.

The story centers on a birthday party thrown for New York farm-policy expert Tom (Michael Shannon) by his Iranian-born wife, Ramina (Azita Ghanizada), and a few friends. But when Tom's co-worker Clyde (Michael Chernus) brings his new girlfriend, Alice (Rachel Weisz), Tom recognizes her as Jenny, his girlfriend of 15 years ago, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Turns out Alice, who's researching frogs on Long Island, is just the latest persona Jenny has invented for herself over the years.

Alas, just when Marston ("Maria Full of Grace") and co-writer Julian Sheppard are about to let Tom and Jenny get serious, the story is sidetracked when the characters encounter a friendly elderly couple (Kathy Bates and Danny Glover) to let Tom feel the thrill Jenny gets of pretending to be someone else. The solid performances by Weisz and Shannon go to waste in a story that only fakes being as deep as it could have been.

'Complete Unknown'

Opens Friday, Sept. 16, at Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated R for some language; 92 minutes.