Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

INVENTING THE ABBOTTS

Directed by Pat O'Connor (1997, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Liv Tyler, Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Crudup, and Jennifer Connelly

Two brothers set their ambitions, in their own ways, on the rich Abbott sisters.

View Count: Twice

 

 

3 stars

January 25th, 2002 on TV

 
   

Warm, heartfelt, but a little slow.  It had a nice setting, with some richly textured characters, who could be sympathized with when they weren't mumbling.

I did not remember watching this movie before now, except that while watching it, I remembered vividly several scenes.  Between the two of us, we remembered much of the movie.  To have forgotten so much in so short a time, I wondered how good this film must be...

But it was engaging.  I was really interested, for the most part.  We get the movie from the point of view of the younger brother, Doug, but not exclusively.  He does a narration, but obviously knows things that went on while he was not there, either from Pamela or from his  brother, Jacey.  

Jacey is obsessed with the Abbotts, first because they are rich, and second, because of the things he believes of the girls' father.  He believes that his mother had an affair with Mr. Abbott after their own father died, and that Mr. Abbott stole a patent off his father and made a fortune with it.  It doesn't matter that none of this is true; Jacey is not interested in the truth -just revenge.  Their father actually sold the patent to Abbott for the price of a used car, not knowing what it was actually worth.  He made a bet that he could drive the car out over the ice, and drove through the ice on the way back.  Abbott felt so bad that he would go over and console their mother, but no affair ever happened.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Abbott was convinced that there was an affair, so the entire town believed her.  And after all these years, the rumors still go around.

Jacey sets his sights first on Eleanor, whom I believe is the middle daughter.  She is using him for her own purposes, however.  She wants nothing more than to get out of this town, and it takes a lot to do that.  So she sleeps around with every guy who expresses an interest, including Jacey.  That is the final straw (especially after a great scene where they are caught by her father out near the lake), and she is not seen in the town again.  Eventually, she gets to become a stewardess.

After that relationship ends, Jacey becomes miserable, but then the eldest daughter becomes available.  Somehow, he is able to sneak his way past her vulnerability and "into her pants", even though she's not yet divorced, and has a young baby.  His mother cannot condone what he is doing, and after Alice rejects him, the affair ends and he goes back to college.  

Doug, meanwhile, has a great friendship with the youngest daughter, Pamela Abbott.  Liv Tyler plays her great, as the innocent and protector.  She worries about becoming like Eleanor, and so rebuffs Doug's advances, being content with just kissing.  But when Alice becomes involved with Jacey, Pamela protects her from first their father, and then from Jacey by informing on him.  

Jacey is played wonderfully withdrawn, a person who takes life as it comes to him.  After Eleanor is caught with his brother, Pamela tells him that they should stop seeing each other for a while.  He calmly agrees, which gets her upset.  This in turn gets him upset, but the friendship doesn't really die.  

The brothers disagree what it means to date an Abbott.  They come and go, they even get in to a couple of fights over it.  They act like brothers.  Even when they are shouting, they are pretty soft-spoken.  But they become estranged when Doug finds out that Pamela has been sleeping with Jacey, his final Abbott conquest, while at college.  She is so overwrought with guilt, and his brother claims that he knew nothing of the feelings between the two of them.  

But after the boys' mother dies, Doug finds it in himself to forgive both Jacey and Pamela.  He breaks free of the mold, and in doing so, is able to marry her and become an Abbott himself.  

There are no real standout scenes in this movie.  Everything is pretty even all the way through.  The town of the 1950s is quiet, except for the whisperings about Doug's family, and the giant parties that the Abbotts throw, for every occasion under the sun.  It didn't leave too much of an impression with me, which is probably why I didn't remember seeing it.  But it was still enjoyable, and the scenery, while a little drab, was a nice background to this sad story.  I especially liked the old barn, which also had an impression on Doug.  The movie moved along a little slowly, but the pacing was deliberate, keeping the conquest of the Abbotts going.  I liked the relationship between Doug and his mother, always understanding, never yelling, and once again, letting life come at them as it would.  

An enjoyable movie, if not too memorable.

 
   

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