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Inventing the Abbotts Reviews

Irish director Pat O'Connor, who turned some heads with the politically charged CAL and the far gentler CIRCLE OF FRIENDS, takes a stab at late '50s Americana and comes up with a pastel-pretty and oh-so-dull coming of age tale. Set in 1957, this tepid adaptation of Sue Miller's short story involves two families in small town Haley, IL: the socially prominent Abbotts, the richest family in town, and the less fortunate Holts. Volatile Jaycee Holt (Billy Crudup) is obsessed with the Abbotts, envious of all he feels should be his. His determination to woo all the pretty Abbott sisters smacks more of revenge than romance. Dopey baby-brother Doug (Joaquin Pheonix), by contrast, really loves the equally goofy Pam Abbott (Liv Tyler) -- that is, until his older brother's obsession threatens to destroy his teen dream. We should mention there is a dark secret linking the two families -- something to do with adultery and filing-cabinet patents -- but it's hardly worth the fuss. The script is weak and unfocused, and the perfect period details are just too perfect: nothing here breathes, including the cast. Crudup works himself into a fine lather, but no one else in the film seems to notice. Phoenix and Tyler, meanwhile, spend their time swallowing lines and gazing idiotically into one another's eyes like two beautiful, fatuous moon-calves.