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Inventing The Abbots
Starring Joanna Going, Liv Tyler, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Billy Crudup
Screenplay by Ken Hixon
From the short story by Sue Miller
Directed by Pat O'Connor

Inventing the Abbotts is a perfect example of the kind of dating flick that falls right in the middle of Cranky's rating curve, and I've already argued the point with the ladyfriend who accompanied me to see it. She loved it. Cranky was not as enthralled.

From the production team of Brian Glazer and Ron Howard, Inventing the Abbotts has so much going for it that how you will feel about it is, ultimately, all a matter of perspective and perception. It is well cast and acted. The movie's setting, the late 1950's, looks and feels right.

But the pacing is so damned slow that, when you figure out the real motives of one of the main characters, you still have close to an hour to go until the film has ended. Inventing the Abbots is adapted from a short story, and filmed at mega-novel length.

Here's the gist: in a small town in Illinois there are two families. The Abbotts are the rich family in town, and the seasons of the year are marked by the parties regularly thrown to mark the birthdays or engagements of any of the three Abbott daughters.

On the other side of town is the widow Holt (Kathy Baker) and her two sons, Jacey (Billy Crudup) and Doug (Joaquin Phoenix). There is a very tangible sexual attraction between the Holt boys and the Abbott girls. It's more than a physical attraction for Jacey, and saying even that much is probably saying too much.

Inventing the Abbotts is interesting because it goes upside the head of traditional '50's values. This is no cross between Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver and Happy Days. In this world, mom buys beer for the kids and people actually have sex!

Liv Tyler continues her string of good performances, here as Pam, the kid who "gets off the hook," as opposed to her "good" sister Alice (Joanna Going) Eleanor and her "bad" sister Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly).

Jennifer Connelly's part is one of the smaller ones but, based on the extraordinary fanboy messaging I see in the CompuServe forums, I would venture to guess that none of her fans are going to be disappointed.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Inventing the Abbotts, he would have paid . . .

$4.00

My ladyfriend rated Inventing the Abbotts a much closer to perfection $6.50.

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