The Invisible Circus Movie Review

If anyone's considering checking out The Invisible Circus thinking it's Cameron Diaz's latest feature, forget it. Diaz, a burst of sunshine and energy in this hopelessly bland movie, plays a small supporting role. The weight of the story instead leans on 20-year old Jordana Brewster, a square-jawed beauty who doesn't have the skills to bring this movie out of its disorganized, poorly paced funk.

The oddly titled film, adapted from Jennifer Egan's book, tells of Phoebe (Brewster), a mid-70s San Francisco teenager who is compelled to trace the European travel path of her sister Faith (Diaz), whose trip six years earlier apparently ended in her suicide.

Screenwriter/director Adam Brooks (co-writer of Beloved, director of Practical Magic) carelessly presents both girls' stories in these neat, self-contained packages that have little connection to one another -- the result is a story that lacks the cohesion needed to keep the viewer's interest.

We see Phoebe and Mom (Blythe Danner) fight about past guilts and mistakes, thinking the film might be about their relationship. Then, we experience choppy flashbacks about Phoebe and Faith, and think that's where the movie's headed. Ultimately, the focus of the story (if there is any) lies with Phoebe's relationship with Wolf (Christopher Eccleston), Faith's ex-boyfriend and the holder of many secrets.

Soon after Phoebe arrives on Wolf's doorstep in France (she's tracing sis's steps through a series of postcards and notes), she hits the town alone, tripping on her first LSD stamp. At this point, we know that Brooks really doesn't know where he's going, giving us the stereotypical "drug trip" scene, with Phoebe floating around the city, hearing voices, seeing hallucinations. The scene does absolutely nothing but burn about ten minutes -- it gives no additional information about the character, her situation, or her new setting. It just doesn't fit, and that's a sign of the lack of focus to come. (Quick note to filmmakers: Please stop trying to capture the drug experience; we've had enough, and recently, I've only believed Billy Crudup in Jesus' Son anyway.)

Aside from overusing too much double meaning around the name Faith, Brooks slips, trying to convince us of Faith's "mysterious" past without actually delivering the film as a mystery. Instead, we see flashbacks of her participation in angry, misguided revolutionary groups throughout Europe, nearly always presented in a dim, blue glow (those underground radicals sure were dark and cold, huh?).

Instead of musing on familiar themes, Brooks should have tackled some more dangerous ones. Such as the oddity of a budding romance between Phoebe and Wolf -- the fact that she's 18 years old is never even brought up. Or some more background about the pseudo-terrorist groups to which Faith is so attracted. Instead, we just get a lot of gloomy delivery from Brewster, who just has this vibe that there's more than meets the eye.

Unfortunately for the viewer, there's really not. Was there more in the book? If you've read the book, let me know how it is. Because the movie's primarily a waste of time.

Singin' in the rain.


The Invisible Circus Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2001


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