It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Adam Brooks' "Invisible Circus" finds the solution to searing personal questions through a tricky flashback structure. There are two stories here, involving an older sister's disappearance and a younger sister's quest, and either one would be better told as a straightforward narrative. When flashbacks tease us with bits of information, it has to be done well, or we feel toyed with. Here the mystery is solved by stomping in thick-soled narrative boots through the squishy marsh of contrivance.
Jordana Brewster stars as Phoebe, 18 years old in 1976. In the summer of 1969, she tells us in her narration, her sister Faith went to Europe and never came back. The story was that Faith (Cameron Diaz) killed herself in Portugal. Phoebe doesn't buy it. After a heart-to-heart with her mother (Blythe Danner), Phoebe sets off on a quest to solve the mystery, message, meaning, method, etc., of Faith's disappearance.
The search begins with Wolf (Christopher Eccleston), Faith's old boyfriend, now engaged and living in Paris. Since Wolf knows all the answers and that's pretty clear to us (if not to Phoebe), he is required to be oblique to a tiresome degree. And there is another problem. In any movie where a lithesome 18-year-old confronts her older sister's lover, there is the inescapable possibility that she will sleep with him. This danger, which increases alarmingly when the character is named Wolf, is to be avoided, since the resulting sex scene will usually play as gratuitous, introducing problems the screenplay is not really interested in exploring.
I cringe when a man and a woman pretend to be on a disinterested quest, and their unspoken sexual agenda makes everything they say sound coy.