Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
"Inventing the Abbotts'' is a film that seems to have been made in a time machine. Not only the picture's story but also its values and style are inspired by the 1950s. It's like a subtler, more class-conscious "Peyton Place,'' and if the same movie had been made 40 years ago with Natalie Wood, Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue and Ricky Nelson, it could have used more or less the same screenplay (minus the four-letter words).
The film seems indirectly inspired by Welles' "Magnificent Ambersons.'' It's about the Abbotts, a rich family whose parties and wealth dominate a small Midwestern town, and about a local working-class boy who has made the family his "addiction.'' He eventually conquers all three of the Abbott girls, while his younger brother lusts after one and loves another, but lacks his courage.
The movie is narrated by the younger brother, Doug Holt (Joaquin Phoenix). He tends to repeat himself, finding countless different ways to say that his upwardly mobile brother Jacey Holt (Billy Crudup) has always been more confident and successful--especially around the Abbott girls. The oldest is Alice (Joanna Going), the official "nice girl,'' who gets pregnant, gets married, gets divorced and gets Jacey, in that order. The middle is Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly), the official "bad girl,'' who gets sent away to stewardess school for her exploits. The youngest is Pam (Liv Tyler), and she's also the nicest, and the one Doug really likes, although he also lusts after Eleanor.
To understand the three Abbott girls and the two Holt brothers, it helps to understand their world. They live in Haley, Ill., a town of maybe 20,000, dominated by a steel desk factory owned by Mr. Abbott (Will Patton). Years ago, Mr. Abbott and the boys' father were friends. But then Abbott allegedly cheated Holt out of a valuable patent for sliding desk drawers, and then Holt died when he drove his DeSoto roadster onto a frozen lake on a stupid $20 bet. Soon after, rumors raced through town that Mr. Abbott was spending way too much time consoling the new widow Holt (Kathy Baker).