Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
User ReviewsReview this title
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.
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".
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!
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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!
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".
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.
Title (Brazil): "Círculo de Paixões" ("Circle of Passions")
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
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.