Monday, April 18, 2011

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You: Abandon

Kevin Williamson is awesome.

Sure, he's had his missteps (I never even attempted Wasteland because of how awful I heard it was, and Vampire Diaries looks positively poopy), but Dawson's Creek provided a gigantic bonding experience for me and my roommates freshman and sophomore year of college.  And seeing Scream 4 at 12:01 last Friday, surrounded by a raucous crowd who wasn't above yelling at the screen, I was reminded how much FUN horror can be. Much as I enjoyed the morality-play aspect of the first Saw film--and to an extent, the second--I hate how quickly it denigrated into straight-up torture porn.  RiffTrax notwithstanding, where's the entertainment in that?

Of course, Kevin Williamson isn't perfect.  He is also largely responsible for introducing the world to Mrs. Tom Cruise, or as she was known pre-couch jump, Katie Holmes.

Because I am a nerd, after seeing Scream 4, I immediately visited IMDb for the film's trivia/fun facts.  This led me to look up the original Scream trilogy, which I haven't seen in ages.  And for some reason, I remembered a suspense-y piece of tripe I encountered on the university movie channel back in my law-school days.

Anyone else remember Abandon?

Kevin Williamson's not involved at all, but Katie Holmes sure as hell is. This KH vehicle was unleashed in 2002 when the Creek was still running and Hollywood's powers that be were trying to translate her little-girl voice and rolling eyes into full-fledged stardom.

Didn't really work.

Let me just say I'm a little prejudiced.  I never liked Joey Potter.  Yeah, she was from the wrong side of the tracks and her sister had the audacity to get knocked up by a non-white guy (one of the many, many things Joey bitched about), but my God, the girl never stopped whining.  Also, honey, your best friend/boyfriend/whatever's name is DAW-son, not DAH-son.  In contrast, Michelle Williams' Jen Lindley was just as misguided, but way more interesting.  I mean, she liked 70's rock and her best friends were her grandma and a gay guy.  WINNING.

Also, who has the more successful acting career now?  I rest my case.

Anyway, Abandon.

So Katie Holmes is Katie Burke, a senior at an unnamed super-chichi East Coast-looking school.  We know it is for smart people because a boy in Katie/Katie's group of friends wears glasses.  Katie/Katie's other pals include resident African-American and Bring It On alum Gabrielle Union, and Zooey Deschanel in her pre-hipster goddess days when she was typecast as the wacky friend.  Katie/Katie is NOT friends with the weird girl in the library, played by Melanie Lynskey in the lean post-Heavenly Creatures years before she had much of a career.

Katie/Katie has everyone drooling over her: she's one of two students on campus being pursued by the exclusive i-banking firm McKinsey.  Even the thesis she's struggling to finish sounds impressive.

But much like with Elizabeth Wakefield, I don't really see the appeal.  You see, Katie/Katie is sort of a robot.  A very pretty, apparently smart robot, but a robot nonetheless.  She has what I like to call Bella Swan Syndrome: where a young character is totally popular despite having practically no personality.  I have no idea what McKinsey sees in her--then again, I'm not an i-banker.

Anyway, this little robot has a secret.  When she was a sophomore she fell in love with senior Embry Larkin (Charlie Hunnam, who is now on Sons of Anarchy, which everyone says I should check out).  Shown in flashback form, Embry is a picture-perfect, spot-on trust fund brat desperate for street cred crossed with theatrical pretentious douchebag.  In other words, I would totally have wanted to do him in college.

At the end of Katie/Katie's sophomore year, Embry staged an elaborate theatre production which he introduced by essentially telling the audience to fuck off, and disappeared into a waiting vehicle, never to be seen again.

Two years later, Embry has no family to speak of, but his attorneys want him declared legally dead so they can donate all his riches to the family foundation or something, and recovering alcoholic cop Benjamin Bratt (when Hollywood was trying to make HIM happen because I think he was doing Julia Roberts at the time) is digging out his notepad and most serious expression to find out what happened.

Meanwhile, Katie/Katie is having a very boring nervous breakdown: she can't sleep, can't finish her thesis, and despite the McKinsey guy showing up at her dorm room (which I'm imagining breaks all sorts of rules and codes of appropriateness) and Detective Bratt creaming his jeans over her, she's seeing Embry everywhere she goes.

What is Katie/Katie hiding?  Is Embry really back?  Will Det. Bratt start drinking again?

All I know is Zooey's wisecracking all the way!

I don't get it.  Why did I gravitate towards this film?  And by "gravitate" I mean "stalk relentlessly."  Back in 2006, when I couldn't catch the whole damn thing on the university movie channel, I went to no less than 2 or 3 video stores trying to track it down.  And yesterday, I looked at my local video place and at the library, plus Netflix streaming and Amazon, before I may or may not have illegally streamed it from some Japanese website where I think they're trying to sell me sex shoes made of chicken.

In other words, it's a big ole case of This Movie Sucks And I Can't Stop Watching And I Totally Hate Myself.

I think in the old days, I could relate to Katie/Katie's general stress and weirdness surrounding her upcoming graduation, job interviews, and remembering an ex best left un-remembered.  The end of school is a strange time and I thought the film actually did an okay job of conveying that (would have done a better job with a more convincing actress, just saying).  In the, I dunno.  Maybe it's nostalgia.  Maybe I really like it when Zooey plays the wacky friend (aw hell, I love her as the hipster goddess too).  Maybe I find Embry totally hot and who am I kidding, I'd probably still hit that.  I'd just tape his mouth shut first.

Either way...I might still buy the DVD.

Or one of my readers could buy it for me (hint, hint).  I'd even take it as a present from Katie, if Tom lets her out of the Scientology basement.

Do you have any inexplicable favorites?  Along the same lines, what movie do you think desperately needs a RiffTrax?

'Cause for me, the answer to both those questions starts with A and ends with -bandon.

Son of a bitch.


  1. I totally just watched this for the first time not that long ago (got it the old-fashioned way by having Netflix send a disc -- can't believe we're in an age where I am referring to that as the old-fashioned way). Rough stuff, but I loooove the guy who plays Embry (I'm obsessed with him from Undeclared), and it makes McGill look gorgeous, so. In all it's a really artfully shot movie for how crap the acting/plot is.

    Also I never watched Dawson's Creek, but if you did and liked it I trust you've seen the new Ke$ha video with JvdB?

  2. Hi tinypants!

    How’s this for old-fashioned: I don’t even have Netflix, in any form! (However, I do have a DVD rental hook-up elsewhere, so it’s not like it’s some statement on my part.)

    Now that you point it out, I know what you mean about the gorgeous cinematography! All the shades of gray and cool tones, and the camera angles, do a way better job of conveying a sense of existential dread than Katie Holmes’ acting ever could.

    I did a little research after writing this post and found out the film was inspired by a novel called Adams Fall: similar storyline, but it’s set at Harvard and the male protagonist is haunted by (I think) his former best friend, or his girlfriend’s ex, or something. It’s out of print, but I put it on hold at the library.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. I remember being pleasantly surprised by this when it came out, but I haven't seen it since. My SJ-R review verbatim. (Don't worry. It's not terribly long.)

    Don’t buy into the TV ads selling it as a woman-in-trouble thriller. Scripted and directed by Oscar-winning writer Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic”), “Abandon” is a surprising, intriguing curiosity.

    Sure, it has the thriller element — Embry (Charlie Hunnam), the rich but troubled ex-boyfriend of college senior Katie (Katie Holmes), seems to have shown up after disappearing for two years. Investigating the case is Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), a detective recovering from what he terms “extreme substance abuse.”

    This mystery works mainly as a vehicle to develop Katie’s psychological troubles. She’s needy, somewhat dysfunctional and, at times, on the verge of mental collapse.

    Alternately baby-faced and cruel-looking, Holmes is perfect for the role and would seem to have plenty of adult, post-“Dawson” roles to look forward to.

    Gaghan’s screenplay has a mesmerizing structure, and he clearly has taken some lessons in deliberate directorial pacing from pal Steven Soderbergh. The cinematography from Matthew Libatique (“Requiem For a Dream”) is hypnotic, using carefully framed close-ups and blue camera filters for the trippier scenes.

    In the end, “Abandon” is less the cheap thriller you’d expect than it is a fairly revealing study of its two main characters — damaged-goods people whose orbits will inevitably and dangerously collide.

    It’s a movie that takes a refreshingly good look at parasitic romance while incorporating thrills.

  4. Nick,

    I always love reading your reviews, and I like when we agree on the most unlikely of films.

    I think for me, what Abandon captures best is the burnout crossed with confusion that encapsulates us type A's as we try, and fail, to prepare for a world beyond school we only know as "real."

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. Thanks! We can't have "Scream 4," but we'll always have "Abandon."

    Good point on the type-A personification. I wonder, too, if this was one of those movies for which we were the right age at the right time.

  6. I feel like I need to see this! It's just the kind of movie I would have loved in my melodramatic, Dawson's Creek obsessed teen days... and just quietly, still love now.
    It's funny, when I originally watched DC, I HATED Jen and was totally Team Joey, but recently I rewatched the whole series (yep) and ended up wanting to punch Joey every time she came on screen. Man, does that girl whine! Jen, on the other hand, just tries to be nice and is treated like crap by most of the people in her life. Hmph.
    You should check out Vampire Diaries - it's totally awesome, in a super-cheesy b-grade way.