Inventing the Abbotts

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 04/02/97)

By Andrea Chase

It's not that "Inventing the Abbotts" is so bad. The problem is that it's so slow. How slow? Well, if while watching it you were suddenly to remember that the dry cleaning needed fetching, you could run out, pick it up, even grab a cappuccino and check your messages before returning to your seat and still not miss enough to prevent you following the plot.

The story, set round about forty years ago, is all about how Jaycey, the older of the two not-so- well-to-do Holt boys, lives his life eaten up with envy over the extremely well-to-do Abbotts. It's not simple lucre-envy, either. Mom may or may not have been cheated out of a file drawer patent by them. Dad may or may not have taken a sucker bet that ended in tragedy because of them. And Papa Abbott may or may not have done the wild thing with Holt person or persons inappropriate. Jaycey has made it his life's work to do to the three Abbot daughters literally what the Abbott family did to his family metaphorically. As the film unfolds, a startling revelation is made every twenty minutes or so. Well, they seem startling, it might just be that they break the monotony. By the end, we've seen lives destroyed by the simple tragedies of daily life, played out on the stage of a small town not entirely dissimilar to Peyton Place.

Now here's the real heartbreaker- buried in this film is Kathy Baker's first-rate performance as the boys' mother, who's been dealt a bad hand by life but didn't become bitter, or lose her sense of humor. Moreover, late in the film, insult is added to this injury by a jarring inconsistancy. The younger Holt brother, Doug, gives a three line summary dismissal of his mother's life. Aside from it being completely out of character for Doug, the film had built her up, successfully, as a character to both respect and to like for her quiet courage as the town's outcast. What was this filmmaker thinking?

I know that a special edition of a film usually means added footage, but I'm looking forward to a special edition of "Inventing the Abbotts" that edits it down what it ought to have been - an interesting little short subject.

Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase

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