Thursday, 13 March 2014

Review - Inventing the Abbots (1997 - Dir. Pat O'Connor)

Jennifer Connelly vs. Rutger Hauer in this first round match in the FA Cup of Actors. And it's up to Connelly to kick off with this little film that I'd never heard of before now. I don't really feel that qualified to review it as it is massively out of my comfort zone. Being used to horror, anime, and general B-movie rubbish this came as a bit of a shock. Inventing the Abbots involves lots of chatting, family matters and emotional issues. I'm a lot more at home with people smacking each other in the faces with frying pans.

Doug (Joaquin Phoenix) and Jacey (Billy Crudup) are two brothers living in a small Illinois town in the greasy fifties. They come from a poor family who may or may not have been wronged by Lloyd Abbott, the father of a local posh family. Lloyd is a rich fellow and has three lovely daughters: Pamela (Liv Tyler), Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly) and Alice (Joanna Going). The two brothers find the Abbott girls distinctly alluring, yet they're not quite sure which they fancy the most...

Be warned that this is a tricky film to watch if you struggle recognising people. The two brothers look very similar, as do the three sisters. Also it can be hard work keeping track of which characters are winking/clicking at each other, are holding hands or have slept together. It's all quite involved. It's as if they've packed a full year's worth of Eastenders style relationship twists and turns into one film.

Seeing as though this is Jennifer Connolly's shot at goal she's hardly in Inventing the Abbotts. Although she didn't get the main starring role, she's well up there in the billing. That's why I thought it would be acceptable to have this as her entry. Nevertheless she makes a sizeable impact. I've never seen her playing a sultry sauce machine before and she manages it very well indeed. Despite her absence from a large portion of the film her presence is felt in many scenes.

The main acting duties fall to Joaquin Phoenix and Liv Tyler. I've never been that sure about Phoenix and I'm still not entirely convinced now. I liked him in Signs but I generally disliked everything about Gladiator. He's likeable enough in this - especially when he uses a black marker pen to draw on some Elvis style mutton chops and then proceeds to go to a swanky party - and maybe his performance is just enough for me to give him another chance by watching another of his offerings and reevaluate what I think about him. With Liv Tyler I feel that I shouldn't like her, for some irrational reason, yet I can't help warming to her. She has a couple of quite touching scenes with Phoenix that warm even an old cynical gorehound's heart.

Billy Crudup is a completely different story. For starters, his name sounds like a lad called Billy has a severely messed up digestive system that has started backing up and causes the unfortunate lad to start throwing up turds. Infantile jibes aside, he's way too miserable and sulky in this. I can't remember him cracking a smile, however miniscule. All the time he mopes around and broods (despite getting a large portion of hanky panky from Jennifer Connelly). It's telling that he was also cast as Dr Manhattan in Watchmen

Surprisingly enough I quite enjoyed Inventing the Abbotts. It's a definite change from what I'm used to and it was quite refreshing (at least it wasn't another useless low budget zombie film). If you like this kind of thing you'd probably get a lot more enjoyment from it than I did. Saying that, it's not the strongest film in Connelly's arsenal so let's see how she fares against Hauer's offering.

If you like this you could also try:
Stealing Beauty, Two Lovers.

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