Volume 90, Issue 102

Wednesday, April 09, 1997



Eye candy leaves you feeling hungry

Gazette file photo
STANDING ON THE STAIRS WITH A GIRL IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO FIRST BASE! Liv Tyler and Joaquin Pheonix chat about bad rock bands like Aerosmith in the new film, Inventing the Abbotts.

Inventing the AbbottsStarring Liv Tyler and Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by Pat O'Connor
At Galleria, 7:20 and 9:50 p.m.

Visually-pleasing images of sprawling mansions and festive pavilions introduce Inventing the Abbotts and portend the film's effect. Directed by Pat O'Connor (Circle of Friends), this tale embodies the glamour of the late 1950s while following the lives of five young adults in a small town. They are from two distinct families, the working class Holts from the wrong side of the tracks and the high-society Abbotts. The beautiful and wealthy Abbott daughters sustain love and lust affairs with the Holt boys, against their father's adamant wishes, resulting in a painfully predictable storyline.

Brothers Doug (Joaquin Phoenix) and Jacey Holt (Billy Crudup) are completely opposed in character, attitude and morals and their sibling rivalry sparks some entertaining conflicts. A high point of the movie is a particularly diverting sequence showing the boys wrestling on their porch, resulting in a few paltry minutes of mindless amusement.

Inventing the Abbotts manages to tell the story without winning the audience's concern or empathy. In a drama that is meant to be character driven, the characters remain hopelessly flat and undeveloped. Although Phoenix yields a solid rendition, his character noticeably lacks depth and fails to evoke any sympathy. His cursory narrative is noncommittal and disappointing, considering he has the charisma and presumably the talent to proffer much more.

Liv Tyler's performance is not only unspectacular, but is a monotonous and repetitious foray of relentless simpering. The majority of the roles are shallowly filled and present no opportunity for the audience to become emotionally involved in the experiences and events on-screen.

The exception to this rule is offered by Kathy Baker, who characterizes the most dimensional character, Helen Holt. Her understated-yet-luminous performance as the boys' mother is reassuringly credible, in stark contrast to the other cast members' portrayals.

The film's lack of variability in tone renders it tedious to watch. The audience remains impassive as the narrative rambles on indefinitely and is only transported into the fantasy by the few redeeming elements of the film, the costume and set design. The dresses worn by the women at the lush Abbott parties inspire more interest from this writer than the standardized dialogue.

The film centres on a romance between Doug and Pam (Tyler), though she is forced to deal with parental pressure to avoid the Holt boys.

By default, the Abbotts and Holts' antagonism becomes the requisite primary problem, which is abruptly "resolved" without the customary building up and climax.

The brusque conclusion, however, is understandable, after having an audience observe the laboured narrative and flagging momentum of the film. After gorging on beautiful people, scenery and fish, one is left feeling extraordinarily empty.

–Shereen Chang

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997