Inventing the Abbotts (1997) Poster

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Excellent, real-to-life drama in Smalltown USA
martex3421 April 2003
Don't know why I didn't see of hear of this film back in 1997, but I don't remember any noise about it at all. Excellent screen play with fine characterizations by all actors; absorbing story and a true-to-life story that hits home at any time. The era was well represented by costume and settings; one of those "good little films" that get lost in the shuffle I guess. Bravo to all associated. I'll recommend it!
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Engaging Drama From Pat O'Connor
jhclues26 May 2001
The lives of two brothers living in a small town in Illinois are profoundly affected by an alleged incident which took place even before one of them was born, in `Inventing the Abbotts,' directed by Pat O'Connor. The Abbotts are one of the wealthiest, most respected families in Haley, Illinois; Lloyd Abbott (Will Patton) is a successful businessman who, along with his wife, Joan (Barbara Williams), has raised three daughters, the oldest of whom, Alice (Joanna Going), is about to be married, while the youngest, Pamela (Liv Tyler), is about to graduate from high school. The Holts, on the other hand, are from the other side of the tracks, and Helen Holt (Kathy Baker) has had to raise her boys on her own. John (Billy Crudup), the oldest, was two-years-old when his father was killed in an accident, while Helen was pregnant with his brother, Doug (Joaquin Phoenix). There's no mystery about what happened in the accident; the bone of contention concerns what happened afterwards-- at least in the eyes of John, even all these years later as he is about to enter collage.

John and Doug's father, it seems, had been business partners with Lloyd Abbott, but after his death, a patent that Mr. Holt owned somehow ended up in Lloyd Abbott's name, making him a wealthy man, while the Holt's ended up in their current state of affairs-- not exactly poor, but barely making ends meet. And since his youth, John has been fixated with the Abbotts, especially their daughters, and one in particular, Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly). But as with most things involving an obsession, it only put John on a lifelong emotional road to nowhere.

Told from Doug's point of view, the story becomes a lesson in life; when to leave the baggage of things best forgotten behind and move on. Phoenix gives an affecting performance as Doug, who has an on-again-off-again relationship with Pamela, the one sister who is, `Just there,' as she says (according to her, Alice is the `good' one, Eleanor the `bad'). He captures that sense of being at an age when uncertainty is the only absolute, and you feel his need to search and seek out that toe-hold on life that is often elusive to the young. There's an understated ring of truth in his portrayal that adds that depth which makes his character credible, and one to whom it is easy to relate.

Crudup delivers, as well, with a performance wound in introspective tension so tightly that there are moments when it seems almost tangible. He carries a burden-- that from which his obsession was born-- and it shows. John has so much going for him (the love of his mother and brother; good looks; intelligence), that watching him suffer so emotionally-- even at arm's length-- is sad to see, especially in light of the fact that it is so unnecessary. Still, some of his actions (especially one late in the film) are intrinsically almost too brutal to forgive; only so much, after all, can be buried amid rationalization. In the end, you feel for him, but only so far; and then you are compelled to do what he could not-- you move on.

As Pamela, Liv Tyler turns in a reserved performance that captures something of that same sense of confusion reflected in Doug's character. A bit more grounded, perhaps, but there is still that `searching' going on within her. Connelly, meanwhile, gets into her role as the'bad' sister with relish, exuding a self-assured sexual tension qualified with just enough restraint to make Eleanor a memorable and effective character. Going does a nice job, also, though by the nature of her character alone, she is bound to be somewhat overshadowed by Tyler and Connelly.

The supporting cast includes Michael Sutton (Steve), Alessandro Nivola (Peter), Shawn Hatosy (Victor) and Michael Keaton as the narrator. An engaging and often poignant drama, `Inventing the Abbotts' puts love, loss and confusion (one might say the mainstays of life) into perspective, and illustrates that how we deal with it all is not necessarily a matter of individual choice. Some, in fact, just may have to invent whatever it is they need to hang onto. At one point in the film, Doug says of his brother, `If the Abbotts hadn't existed, John would've invented them.' And maybe that's the way it is; taking life as it comes and dealing with it the best way you know how. I rate this one 8/10.
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Perfect in its simplicity
redlippedqueen29 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film is an old favorite of mine. The story takes you back in time, and brilliantly captures the attitudes and prejudices of small town life. Every actor in this film gives such a genuine performance that you can't help being sucked into their world, a world where what is said by the rich can either save or condemn as they see fit. Each location used in the film leaves an imprint on you, from the garage where the brothers always unite over a game of ping-pong to the romance of the abandoned farm where the sparks of love really begin to fly. "Inventing the Abbotts" is a coming of age story that captures the awkwardness of adolescence without all the cheese that so often pervades the genre. It is a tale of love and lust, rich and poor, pure and simple.
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Sweet little romance
tripwires4 September 2001
What can I say? I love this movie. And I'm not the type who digs romance movies, because they're usually 1) rubbish, 2) crap and 3) junk. "Inventing the Abbotts" is none of the above. Maybe it has got something to do with Joaquin Phoenix's presence in the movie; in my humble opinion, he is one tremendous actor and I love him, and I saw this movie because he's in it. Or maybe, just maybe, "Inventing the Abbotts" is simply a sweet little romantic movie that I enjoyed very much. There is just something about the movie that touches me. I do agree that "the best kind of love is the no-matter-what kind", and seeing it displayed so genuinely through Doug (Phoenix) and Pam (Liv Tyler) just did it for me. Not only was Joaquin brilliant as Doug, his character is, let's face it, an all-round good guy: someone you'd feel comfortable with, comfortable enough to let him meet the parents. And although there were some scenes where Liv Tyler didn't quite deliver, the chemistry between the two of them is obvious, and it helps to make their romance more possible than it already is.

Billy Crudup plays the more interesting Holt brother Jacey, and is thoroughly convincing in his role. Jennifer Connelly is beautiful, and like most of the supporting cast, is solid in her role. Special kudos must go to the actress who played Doug's mom (her name eluded my memory). She handled her role with delicacy and care, and turned what could be a fairly boring character to an interesting one. I love the exploration of family relationships, and I was glad to see a solid relationship between Doug and his mother.

All in all, "Inventing the Abbotts" is a splendid movie that *somehow* teaches you to love "no matter what".
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A lovely, heartfelt movie that should have received more attention
david-greene531 August 2008
As a voracious film buff, it always surprises me when a great film is released and totally escapes my notice, sometimes for years! I recently viewed "Inventing the Abbotts" on a TV pay channel. I was so astounded by the emotional power of the film that I went to my Leonard Maltin guide, curious to see what the reviewer there had to say about it. I was astounded to find that he had pretty much dismissed the whole thing as flaccid and disappointing. I could not help but disagree, most emphatically. Maybe it is all a matter of taste, but I loved the performances by all of the principal players. The cinematography and production design are terrific. I felt that the director had crafted a constantly engrossing, moving film. The script, which Maltin's reviewer called "dull", struck me as having a fine ear for strong dialogue, all of which seemed very natural and effective to me. There is so much that is poignant and insightful and deeply touching in this entire piece that I would say that anyone who favors dramas with powerful romantic elements and thoughtful examination of the forces at work in society should make every effort to see this film. I do not know why it did not attract more notice when it first came out.
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A well acted drama
Claleine15 April 2001
I found this to be a sweet and emotional film. The direction by O'Connor was swift and engrossing and I liked the way he let you see each character differ when they were around another character. Like the way Joaquin Phoenix's character gets all lustful around Jennifer Connolly, but restrains himself around Liv Tyler.

Considering this is the film that brought them together in real life, I'm not surprised that Joaquin and Liv were so tender with one another. Both of them have the acting ability, where you only have to look into their eyes to know what they're feeling or trying to convey. For all the bitterness some characters offered, it was the relationship between Pamela and Doug that captured me.

Just a sweet love story, and that can be OK sometimes!
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one of the most underrated movies I have ever seen.
renar8 August 2005
This movie has not received enough credit. In my estimation, each member of the cast has turned in the best performance of their career. From the relationship between the two lead characters, and with their Mother, and their connection to the Abbotts, this movie tells a moving story with true heartfelt emotion. I cried at many points in the movie. Joaquin and Billy are truly inspiring. Liv Tyler and Jennifer Connolley let us into their world of what life was like in the teenage world of the early 60's. We were transported in time back to that world with all of it social standards and sanctions. Pat O'Connor has outdone himself with this film.
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Inventing the Abbotts is a great movie!
bjshopper1 August 2006
"Inventing the Abbotts" was one of those late night movies I had the opportunity to catch last night on HBO when I couldn't sleep due to nerve damage in my leg. Excellent cast and storyline. I had never even heard of it. It came out in 1997 and I am/was a movie goer. I don't even remember ever seeing previews on this one. I definitely would like to see it from the beginning; although I don't think I missed too much. Joaquin Phoenix is an excellent actor even when he was nine years younger. The relationship between him and his mother is quite charming, she knows her son well. I thought the entire cast was very good but Joaquin Phoenix really stood out. I came from a small town on the Gulf coast of Florida and this movie was something that I could really relate to as to how people in small towns are no matter where in the USA they are located; just different names and faces. One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Sure beats the heck out of the bulk of what is out there today, sad to say.
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Beautiful story with strong characters -some spoilers
Rivrchild8 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
One of the things I love about this film is the subtle humor that Joaquin brings to his character, Doug Holt. A few examples: the fake side-burns, his mother confronting him about smoking, etc. Joaquin's performance is excellent throughout. We see his character evolve, with changes that are subtle enough to be believable. He is quiet and unassuming, and so very different from his brother. When we finally see him blow his quiet fuse in the end, it almost hurts to watch. I found this film to be funny, dramatic, and above all, so honest. The performances and the dialogue are not only believable but carry a certain weight that simply wracked my emotions. It is a beautiful, intimate story, and many scenes are simply unforgettable. The lines are not false or corny in any way. And although it uses a few unoriginal plot devices, it gets away with this by acknowledging that they are unoriginal, i.e. the mother's death. A must-see for fans of drama and romance, who can be patient with plot development as long as the characters are strong. In the end it is worth it.
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Excellent performances, great direction
kelley-81 March 1999
This film is notable for the acting performances (especially Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role) obtained by a fine director, Pat O'Connor. O'Connor may be more comfortable with Irish subject matter but does an excellent job capturing the 50's in middle America. The story is well-told, and the relationship of the two brothers (Phoenix and Billy Crudup) stands out. We need more films like this!
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lee_eisenberg11 May 2006
"Inventing the Abbotts" seems like the sort of movie that they just made for no particular reason. Portraying some relationships in 1957 Illinois, the movie is worth seeing. Maybe not any kind of masterpiece, but interesting. I liked the fake sideburns scene, and the, uh, scene under the table. Joaquin Phoenix was showing the same acting skills that he later brought to "Gladiator" and "Walk the Line", and Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup, and Jennifer Connelly also did quite well.

I guess that overall, there's nothing really unique here. There have been many slice-of-life stories. But this one is pretty well done with some good performances. Worth seeing.
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Simple story well told
alan-gauld8 April 2006
I saw this film on a flight to Australia. I'd never heard of it but it would pass some time. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has a Forest Gump kind of charm but a lot less humour. It also reminded me of the early soap operas like Peyton Place in the way it portrayed 1950's America. The unfolding of the family story is well spun out so that you only gradually come to appreciate the tensions involved and indeed some of the scenes are only understood after later revelations show up a new significance. The characters were believable and the twist in the tale of the story sufficiently unexpected but predictable in retrospect that you kick yourself for not realising. A family film with little to worry the censor other than some mild fisticuffs and a small amount of what might have been referred to in the film as "fooling around". The interplay between the leading roles is exceptional, both between the two brothers and between Liv Tyler and Joaquin Phoenix.
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Good story filled with young star power.
Pinhead-620 September 1998
Inventing the Abbotts (1997) is a pretty good story about life and lets a lot of young stars shine. Liv Tyler, Jennifer Connely, and the found again Joaquin Phoenix (who I haven't seen around since SpaceCamp) do a great job in their tough roles. This movie is not so bad at all, one I give a 7 out of 10. If you're cruisin' the channels, and can't find anything on but this, tune it in.
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Hidden Stiries oflives we miss !
rameshkompella-16 July 2007
I never had the colse glimpse of such typical of possible American lives until I watched this move. The gravity of emotions in the lives of individuals involved in American suburbs, especially when it comes to personal relationsships and the affect they can have in their lives, is best portrayed in this movie ! The performance of the cast is at its best .. with due credit to the directoral skills in handling the whole story. With this movie, Joanna Going.. Live Tayler.. Jennifer Connelly.. Joaquin Phoenix ... Billy Crudup .. seems to have the best chance of their careers and cocooned out themselves in graduating in their acting talents.
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A romance about two brothers and the beautiful Abbott girls.
Amandakitty10 June 2008
Alright. I remembered seeing this movie years ago, when it was first released to video, and I liked it. Now, upon re-watching it for the first time since that fateful day ten years ago, I see why. Because I was a pervert. Clearly, I didn't enjoy this movie for its sweet message or its fine actors. Ugh.

Let me gripe from the beginning.

Alright, so first we're introduced to actors that are far too old to be playing their characters. That's fine, though -- I grew up watching Saved by the Bell -- I can deal with that. Then, as we get to know the characters a little better, we realize that, well, we really haven't gotten to know the characters at all. Other than Doug drawing breasts on a picture in school (that's how we find out that he's a "rebel) and Pam saying that each sister is the good, the bad, or the one who gets away with everything, we get nothing. There is literally NO character development. At times, it seems like the director might have tried...then no, by the end, you just find yourself angry because you invested two and a half (or whatever) hours into a movie about people, and you do not care in the slightest about any of the people.

But what about their acting you say? Well, that was just as terrible as the trite and obvious dialogue they were forced to spew. It's amazing when you see brilliant actors in earlier roles when they are give almost nothing to work with. Joaquin Phoenix is perhaps the most surprisingly horrid. Liv Tyler is cute -- when isn't she -- but she has nothing to work with, and to be honest, her acting was far from perfected (has it ever been, though?) She plays this innocent rich girl to a tee, but she still doesn't give us much of a reason to like her. And why does she like Phoenix's character Doug? Because of that rebellious drawing? Geesh. Give us some credit here.

Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly were good, I can't complain about their acting. But, Jennifer Connelly disappears after the first twenty minutes, in a ridiculous scene, with a ridiculous reason.

I could go on for hours. The "secret" behind the Abbotts and the death of the boys' father is pathetic. The attempt at sympathy for Lloyd Abbott falls flat. Maybe it wasn't intentional. Actually, I hope it wasn't.

Inventing the Abbotts keeps the viewer guessing what's going to happen from the get-go. It might be a Romeo and Juliet story, it might be a romantic coming-of-age, as the synopsis suggests. Unfortunately though, it actually turns out to be such thrown-together non-sense that the viewer wishes that their idea had been what happened. Instead, they're left with a characters they don't care about doing things they don't care about, and offended sense of romanticism and a bad taste lingering in their mouths.
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See this movie!
beastiegrrl70005 June 2001
This is one of the best movies I have ever watched. I cry every time I even think about this movie. Even if you don't really like drama, this movie is well worth watching. It will make you rethink everything about yourself and about your life. See this movie with someone you love, even if at the time you are at odds with one another.
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The Lies That Fool You
Chrysanthepop16 January 2012
Pat O'Connor's coming of age period piece 'Inventing The Abbotts' tells the story of two brothers and the Abbott family from their point of view (even though Doug does the narrating). Most have described this as a romantic film but I see it more as a human drama about relationships and growing up in the 50s. It also works very well as a character-driven film and there's plenty of symbolism in Ken Hixon's screenplay, giving the film (in combination with the score and beautiful cinematography) a lyrical feel.

'Inventing The Abbotts' boasts of a wonderful ensemble. The Abbott sisters are played by beauties Jennifer Connelly, Joanna Going and Liv Tyler while the Holt brothers are played by Billy Crudup and Joaquin Phoenix. Tyler does a decent job while the rest of the actors are excellently cast. Phoenix portrays Doug's recklessness, frivolity and growth with conviction while Crudup demonstrates Jacey's obsession and resentment with élan. Connelly (as the wild and tragic sister), Baker (as the quiet, strong and fragile mother), Patton (the ruthless father) and Going (the doomed sister) are superb.

O'Connor has successfully captured the look of the 50s and 60s. The art direction is splendid. There are some beautiful shots of breathtaking landscape.

In the end, 'Inventing The Abbotts' is a very human story. It stresses on human flaws, the perception of them and how it can lead to ones destruction and how 'loving no matter what' can help overcome any obstacle.
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A fine coming of age movie
Shapster1115 July 2006
An excellent cast guides this periodic drama of working class brothers of a widowed mother and their relationships with the daughters of a society family in a small Illinois town in 1957. Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup are superb as the brothers while Liv Tyler is excellent as the youngest Abbott daughter.

The main theme of the movie seems to be the obsession of older brother Jace (Crudup) for everything the Abbotts have that he feels was denied him after his father's death years earlier. Seems there isn't any Abbott girl Jace won't go after in an effort to show he can rise above his middle class upbringing.

Excellent performances are also on display here by Kathy Baker, Will Patton, Joanna Going, and special mention of the future Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly. Connelly has an incredible allure as the very sexy, very promiscuous, and playful hedonistic middle Abbott daughter, Elinore.

A really fine character study, excellent casting, and a movie that moves along at a nice pace. I recommend it and think, after seeing it, you will as well.
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Beautiful story of young slow-burning love
cheerymonkeyuk14 February 2006
Joaquin Phoenix and Liv Tyler make such an adorable young couple. They look so in love on screen - it probably helped that they were head over heels in love with each other off screen as well! You can really sense what they feel for each other, conveyed subtly by glances or lingering looks. It's beautiful and fascinating to watch their love for each other unfold and grow as they mature into adulthood. The scenes where they each convey their love for each other without saying it (her by marking 'I love u' on his hand and him writing it on the window at the end of the film) are so romantic and cute.

You watch the film and you wish you were there - the setting of 50s Midwest America is gorgeous and it provides an appropriate summer feel to the movie. The older members of the supporting cast also provide good solid performances - particularly Kathy Baker as the Holt boys' mother and Will Patton as the Abbott father.

The main reason for watching the film is Joaquin Phoenix. He is gorgeous with those huge hungry green eyes and dark smouldering looks. Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup - could you ask for better looking actors to appear as brothers?

And then Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler and Joanna Going as sisters? I could watch this film for the eye candy alone. In addition Billy Crudup and Jennifer Conelly have sexual chemistry to die for! It's not difficult to see why with all these good-looking young actors that the film is not a joy to watch!
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Tries a little too hard
daizmay19 April 2005
I had read a comment saying this movie is a good "Sunday afternoon movie". Well, I watched it on a Sunday afternoon, and was more than a little disappointed.

The story revolves around a young Doug Holt, a kid born on the "wrong side of the tracks", and his relationship with his brother Jacey. Now, early on in the movie the narrator (an older Doug) says that if the Abbotts had not existed, Jacey would have had to invent them. Yet, this is never illustrated, only repeated randomly throughout the story, which travels through unprovoked love, anger, and forgiveness.

The acting is definitely marvelous, especially considering that the characters are not well developed. People fall in and out of love, pretend they're in love, and cause serious problems because of love. But the audience does not follow: in many key situations, I felt betrayed by both the characters and the screenwriters. Why would a character do something no person alive would ever do, nor would any person in his situation?

If you're big on movies that revolve around aphorisms, this is the one for you. In retrospect, I shouldn't be so hard on it. Almost every scene with Jennifer Connelly is absolutely hysterical. And for that, I say, "Hi Doug".
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Old Fashioned Romance
Libbets6 December 1999
"Inventing the Abbots" is a sweet, old fashioned love story. All the young actors are first rate, especially the always excellent Billy Crudup. Joquin Phoenix also shows great promise (which is further shown in "Return to Paradise." A nice sunday afternoon piece
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Jennifer Connelly... Finally!
walter-1712 September 1999
I rented this movie because it was in the $1 for two nights section at Family Video and I needed something to do with my time over a holiday weekend.

Jennifer Connelly's two "Hi Doug" scenes were worth more than $1 to me. Jennifer Connelly has always played an attractive girl, but this time they let her play a sexy girl. Although she is nearly 30 years old she does a great job.

The guy who plays the super stud in this movie has a great future.

And of course Liv Tyler was great in the the role that she played.

I give Jennifer Connelly a 10, the story an 8, but the boring narrator brought the movie down to a 7/10.
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A Beautiful and Dramatic Romance
claudio_carvalho2 July 2003
Helen Holt (Kathy Baker) is a suffered low middle-class widow, head of the Holt family, living in a small town in Illinois in 1957, with her two very different sons (Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup). Lloyd Abbot (Will Patton) is a wealthy man, head of the Abbott family, with three gorgeous daughters (Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler and Joanna Going – can you imagine such beautiful daughters together?). The drama related to the formation of the wealthy of the Abbots through a patent of the Holt father, the rumors of the romance of Helen Holt and Lloyd Abbot in the past and the romance between the two Holt teenagers and the three Abbott daughters against Lloyd Abbott will, all of these ingredients in the plot of 'Inventing the Abbotts' could lead to a Mexican soap opera. However, the direction of Pat O'Coonor, supported by a great cast, presents a beautiful and touching movie. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Círculo de Paixões" ("Circle of Passions")
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Very Good Looking Cast - Not A Very Good Film
Theo Robertson14 December 2005
Certainly you can't complain about the sex appeal of the cast in this movie

Joaquin Phoenix - Smouldering and dangerous good looks . One can't help wondering why it took till 2000 with GLADIATOR that he became a well known actor

Liv Tyler - I notice she has bags under her eyes but apart from that she's strikingly beautiful . Some people claim she's not much of an actress but I was too overcome by the view to notice

Jennifer Connelly - Sexy just doesn't even begin to describe Ms Conelly

Joanna Going - So many beautiful actresses so little time to watch movies

You hear what I'm saying ? The cast of this movie are so hot the audience might just get incinerated but it's the story that's important to a movie , if the story isn't compelling then a film will fail as entertainment and the problem with INVENTING THE ABBOTS is that that the story is basically two lower class brothers trying to court two middle class sisters who have an authoritarian patriarch as a father in 1950s middle America . Despite some screen burning sex appeal the production values are very similar to a TVM ( Strangely another movie ITV broadcast the same night THE HAUNTED HEART suffered from the same problem ) which makes a slow paced story even less involving , though perhaps this movie was made for a female audience in mind
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Generic soap-opera,
Samiam310 August 2010
Regurgitating the Abbotts may have been a better name for this film, because there is nothing inventive about it. What starts off well, degrades in quality to nothing more than a dull and overlong exercise in the stagy writing style of soap opera. It is a story with nowhere to go, and despite some touching moments, and a delightful young cast, The movie is aggravating. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue because it's so corny.

The makers of Inventing the Abbotts give their product no room to grow. It's ultimately devoid of direction believability and stability, And we end up spending time with five or six characters who seem like they could amount to so much more than the story makes of them. It is unfair to all the smart people in the audience. If the film won't commit, Why should we.
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