Inventing the Abbotts

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Jacey Holt (Billy Crudup) and his younger brother Doug (Joaquin Phoenix) are working class folks, but they dream of much more, especially in the case Jacey. The main focus of the dreams involves three sisters, all of whom are beautiful, wealthy, and have an overprotective father, Lloyd Abbott (Will Patton). But that issue doesn’t prevent Jacey from making his claim to at least one of them, which would supply him with a gorgeous lover, as well as a piece of the Abbott family riches, so he thinks. Doug is more concerned with being accepted, let alone admired, but he also wants to get to know the sisters better, so he goes along with Jacey’s ideas. The sisters are named Alice (Joanna Going), Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly), and Pamela (Liv Tyler) and while they do fear their father, they also want to have some fun on the side. But when the Holts and Abbotts start to mix, Lloyd is enraged and warns them all of the consequences, as if something more were on the line than the youngsters knew. What links the Holts and Abbotts, if anything and how will these kids learn what that is, if they ever can?

I remember when this film was released I didn’t expect to like it, but Inventing The Abbotts proved to be a terrific movie in the end. The storyline is about the usual coming of age kind of plot, but the details make this one so good, in addition to the fine cast and superb production design. This is a slice of American life from the 1950s and feels like it, from the obvious visuals to the nuances, very immersive and effective indeed. The costumes, the props, the entire locations have such a rich texture to them, much better than most coming of age flicks, to be sure. But the visuals don’t take all the spotlight here, as the film also sports some solid direction and a good cast. Pat O’Connor’s direction is stylish, but not too much so, which allows the performances to shine, as opposed to camerawork or composition. The cast ensures that the material is well handled and includes such names as Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jennifer Connelly. In the end, this is by no means a modern classic, but it is a very worthwhile motion picture and one I can easily give a high recommendation.

I’ve never seen a performance I didn’t like from Billy Crudup and in this case, he simply shines within the material. Although he is forced to work through some thin spots here, he emerges in as fine form as ever. Crudup never seems lost or muddled within the character, which is good, since that would compromise much of the development there. I do think he elevates this material a lot at times and when the writing gets good, Crudup ensures it comes across as fantastic. This has proven to be true for his work on many films also, which is why I believe Crudup is one of the finest young actors in the business. Other films with Crudup include Without Limits, Sleepers, Almost Famous, Jesus’ Son, and Waking The Dead. The rest of the cast includes Liv Tyler (Armageddon, Empire Records), Jennifer Connelly (Dark City, The Rocketeer), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, To Die For), Will Patton (Gone In Sixty Seconds, The Postman), Barbara Williams (Family of Cops, Krippendorf’s Tribe), and Joanna Going (Heaven, Phantoms).

Video: How does it look?

Inventing The Abbotts is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is an impressive transfer for a catalog title, which are sometimes overlooked and given lower class treatments. The image looks very sharp at all times, with a high detail level and pleasant overall appearance. I saw minimal print damage and in terms of compression flaws, I was unable to detect the presence of any errors there either. The colors were bright and natural, with no signs of flaws in the least, while flesh tones look normal and consistent also. No issues with black levels, as the shadow depth is accurate and detail level is dead on as well. Another crisp, impressive transfer from Fox, who always seems to deliver the goods.

Audio: How does it sound?

Aside from the musical soundtrack, the audio here is pretty basic, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is more than effective. The surround channels don’t see a lot of powerful use, but whatever needs the material has, this track more than fills in all respects. The music allows the surrounds to open up at times, which gives the audio more texture and that’s always welcome. The main focus here is the dialogue however, which sounds rich and clean at all times, no problems in the least. The disc also houses 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in Spanish and English.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes a brief featurette and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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