It's Jennifer Connelly day:
Inventing the Abbots
Connelly film clip (collage below)
It's 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, because that seems to be the
effect they intended. The art and set direction are
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.
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
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
The frigging film is narrated - by Michael Keaton,
surprisingly enough, who never appears on camera, as
the voice of the Joaquin 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
Ol' Billy Crudup had a tough youth, didn't he? Not
once, but twice did he get to do naked sex scenes with
Jennifer Connelly. Here, and in Waking the Dead.
Connelly film clip (collages below)
is torn between positive feelings and repugnance
for The Hat Squad, a bunch of L.A. cops in the
late forties who work independently, and try to do
good things for the city, but trample on the U.S.
Constitution while doing so. The squad consists of
four guys who tool around all day in a really
shiny Art Deco 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible,
and never remove their hats, even when they sit in
the back seat of the convertible and speed through
So I still want to know one
thing about The Hat Squad. How do they keep their
In the course of a murder
investigation, they run into forces even more
powerful and even more corrupt than they are:
various agents of the Federal government who treat
the Hat Dudes as cavalierly as the Hat Guys
themselves treat gangsters. In fact, it is
difficult for the Hat Squad to gain any moral high
ground over the corrupt Feds because they are
doing the same kinds of lawless things. The head
of the Hat Squad (the Top Hat?) ends up
investigating the death of a woman he loved. The
coroner tells him that it seems that the victim
"fell off a cliff". Since the Top Hat has made
many people disappear in the same manner, he seems
to be getting a very painful dose of karma.
This is a pretty cool movie.
It has a contrived and artificial plot, the
Achilles heel of most crime thrillers, but the
mood, atmosphere, and photography provide some
The one thing that really
bothered me about the film was that a major point
was left unresolved. Nick Nolte, as a tough L.A.
detective, gets into a pissing contest with a
local FBI guy (a lesser Baldwin). The Fed tries to
put some pressure on Nolte by getting a search
warrant on his house, tearing it apart at a time
when Nolte's wife was sure to be home, and Nolte
was sure to be at work. Nolte retaliates by
finding the Fed and beating him nearly to death.
Near the end of the movie, the L.A. police chief
gets a call from J. Edgar Hoover, and asks to see
Nolte in his office. Nolte says "fuck it", and
goes off to do what he's gotta do, as movie
mavericks always do. When all the other plot
threads have been resolved, there is no mention of
how the LAPD was able to appease the wrath of J.
Edgar, and I really wanted to see how that would