The Invisible Circus

Directed by Adam Brooks
Starring: Jordana Brewster, Christopher Eccleston, Cameron Diaz, Blythe Danner.
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, language and drug content.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
February 10, 2001

Adam Brooks' The Invisible Circus had the shortest lifespan of any film I know. It premiered on January 26 at this year's Sundance Film Festival. After opening in the New York area on February 2, it played for a week and is now gone. It's supposed to go wider next week, but right now nobody on the East Coast can see it. I managed to catch it on Thursday, for the very last show before it would disappear. After seeing it for myself, I now know why it's gone.

Jordana Brewster stars as Phoebe, a girl just out of high school in the mid-1970s. In the summer of 1969, her older sister, Faith (Cameron Diaz), went to Europe with her British boyfriend, Wolf (Christopher Eccleston). After a few months, Faith was found dead in Portugal after an apparent suicide. Now, Phoebe wants to go to Europe despite the protestations of her mother (Blythe Danner).

Equipped with the postcards that Faith had sent her, Phoebe retraces her steps. Eventually, she gets to Paris where she meets up with Wolf. Phoebe doesn't believe that Faith killed herself, so she tries to get Wolf to tell her what happened.

The rest of the film depicts Phoebe and Wolf (who now calls himself by his given name, Christopher) as long-held secrets are revealed on an odyssey back to Portugal. From the beginning, the film looks like it might be promising, but as it goes on, it becomes more monotonous. I lost count of how many times Christopher said, "I promised Faith I'd never tell anyone, especially you, but..." and went on to reveal something that would signal a flashback.

The flashbacks are why this film was financed and released, since they are the only parts that have Diaz. However, Brewster is the real star, even though her character is entirely uninteresting. It doesn't help matters that Brewster looks nothing like Diaz, and that Diaz doesn't look like an 18-year-old girl anymore. It was a real strain on the suspension of disbelief in a film that desperately needed it.

An interesting way to have made the film (which was based on the novel by Jennifer Egan) would have been to have the same actress play both Phoebe and Faith. For some of the flashbacks, Camilla Belle plays a 12-year-old Phoebe, and she's a dead ringer for Brewster. Why not have Brewster in those scenes as Faith? Because Brooks couldn't afford to do it without Diaz. The Invisible Circus is an independent film with a Hollywood sell-out at its heart. Good riddance, I say.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Invisible Circus (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
The Invisible Circus, a novel by Jennifer Egan -- Paperback
The Invisible Circus: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan