Inventing the Abbots (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Peyton Place, continued and updated.

Actually, only the cast is updated. the story takes place in the 50's, and the filmmaking techniques are in the period style as well, done so well that it appears to be recently rediscovered 50's movie. I think that is praise. I think that is the effect they intended. The art and set direction were flawless, as far as my eyes could detect. Even the smallest details - the appliances, the breadboxes, the bottles, the storefronts, the ads, all transported me back to my childhood.


The premise here: In a small town, two poor brothers, one shy (Joaquin Phoenix) and one slick (Billy Crudup), pursue three rich beautiful sisters (Joanna Going, Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler). The slick brother just wants to use 'em all as revenge for real or imagined slights made by their father at the expense of his parents. The shy brother just wants to fall in love.


Jennifer Connelly's left breast is seen in a sex scene with Billy Crudup. Her breasts are also exposed in a very dark and brief sex scene in a car.
Needless to say, the slick brother gets his revenge, only to find out he was wrong about the affair between the rich man and his mother, and he was wrong about the rich man swindling his father out of some patents. In the process of gaining his ill-conceived revenge, he ends up screwing and insulting the sister that his brother is in love with.

The girls' dad does all the standard "you in a heap o' trouble" stuff, except without the mirrored sunglasses.

It's just a trite soap opera melodrama which may someday become an object of great historical curiosity, like Coppola's The Outsiders, since  everyone in this movie headed for stardom, but was virtually unknown at the time. Crudup made a smash in Almost Famous; Phoenix broke through in Gladiator; Connelly won an Oscar, Tyler starred in Lord of the Rings.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • excellent transfer; 1.85 widescreen anamorphic

  • no noteworthy features

  1. The frigging film is narrated - by Michael Keaton, surprisingly enough, who never appears on camera, as the voice of the Phoenix character looking back from today. Keaton does a very good job with the narration, although I'll be damned if I know why they thought it was necessary
  2. Ol' Billy Crudup has a tough life, doesn't he? Not once, but twice did he get to do naked sex scenes with Jennifer Connelly. Here, and in Waking the Dead.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: 2.5 stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 70, Maltin 2/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 55% positive overall, but only 33% from the top critics. (based on 11 and 3 reviews, respectively)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.0, Apollo users 78/100. The IMDb score is completely consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... $5.9 million on 900 screens
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Sensitive coming-of-age melodrama will appeal to the usual suspects. Not enough humor or depth to reach out beyond the soap opera market.

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