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The Invisible Circus
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The Invisible Circus More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Good performances, contrived film

Author: rosscinema from United States
14 July 2003

This is a case where the script plays with the audience in a manner that serves only in extending this story to 90 minutes. Story starts out in 1969 where a young girl named Faith (Cameron Diaz) travels to Europe with her boyfriend Wolf (Christopher Eccleston) but she dies under mysterious circumstances. Then in 1976 Faith's sister Phoebe (Jordana Brewster) decides to travel to Europe as well and try and find out what happened to her sister. In France she looks up Wolf who has stayed there and she wants him to help her retrace the steps her sister took and answer some questions. He is reluctant but decides to travel with her. Along the way he fills in the gaps of the occurrences and tells Phoebe that Faith had joined up with the Red Army who are an extremist group that is involved in terrorism. Phoebe and Wolf engage in a romance and this complicates the trip to Portugal where Faith died. Their is several things wrong with this film and it all has to do with the script. First, the romance between Wolf and Phoebe is all wrong and does nothing for the story. It rings completely false and comes across as forced. It seems weird that Wolf would engage in a romance with his dead girlfriends sister. Secondly, Wolf knows completely what happened to Faith but only lets out little chunks of information every 15 minutes or so. Wolf will look at Phoebe every 15 minutes and say, "There is something I didn't tell you"! Gee, thanks a lot Wolf! If Wolf had come clean the first time he talked to Phoebe then the film would have been over in about 30 minutes. Another thing that bothered me was that I don't think this film recreated the 1960's at all. Diaz wears hippie clothes but the time period just didn't ring true. I did enjoy a few things like the authentic locations where the film was shot. It is a very good looking film and the scenery is beautiful. The performances are all good especially by Brewster and Diaz. Besides "The Fast and the Furious" I had never really seen Brewster in anything. But after watching her performance in this film I came away very impressed. She's very good here and I hope better roles come her way. The script is told in a very contrived way and the film never comes across as believable.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Too bad this movie cheats with the viewers

Author: Patatino from Italy
7 May 2004

This could have been a good movie, with some intense parts and good play. Unfortunately, it has been ruined by the script, which for all time, tricks the viewer into believing that there will be some kind of final revelation, which never happens. This is what lets the viewer down and therefore ruins the movie.

If the movie was honest from the beginning, then it could have become a very humanly intense road movie, like the kind of '70s movies by Bogdanovich or Altman. But because of the stupid cheat, it only becomes a modest and failed whodunit.

The acting and sceneries are good though. Worth a view - but only to regret how a better film it could have been.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A quest for getting answers about a sister's mysterious death

Author: jotix100 from New York
27 November 2005

Jennifer Egan's novel was brought to the screen by Canadian director Adam Brooks in a film that, based on some comments from contributors to this forum, sounds a bad proposition, but in fact, it's much better than one is led to believe.

This is a story about two sisters who loved one another dearly. Faith, the fair headed and happy-go-lucky hippie girl, takes her younger sibling, Phoebe, under her wing. Phoebe plainly loves Faith; when the older one decides to follow her boyfriend Wolf to Europe on a summer vacation from Berkley, she promises she will send Phoebe a post card every day. Faith does that, until the cards stop coming in and one night, some time later, the family receives a phone call to inform them Faith has died under tragic circumstances.

Phoebe can't forget Faith. That is why after some years pass by, she decides to take the same route the older sister took. She takes the cards from Faith and visits each place, starting in Amsterdam, then moving on to Paris and she wants to end up the trip in Portugal, where Faith encountered her untimely death.

In Paris, Phoebe hooks up with Wolf, who by now, is not a hippie anymore and is living with his girlfriend. Wolf, tries to persuade Phoebe into abandoning her trip and to go back home; she suspects that Wolf holds the key into solving the mystery, and as she is going to depart for Portugal she makes a discovery when she finds a picture that clearly contradicts Wolf's version he has told Phoebe. He feels guilty and, against his girlfriend's wishes, decides to accompany Phoebe to the town where Faith died. The story changes at this point and we go back in flashbacks to what Faith experienced in Europe and what happened in her final days.

The best thing in "The Invisible Circus" are the performances of the principals, something that Mr. Brooks has to take the credit for. The big surprise is the range of Cameron Diaz, who, as Faith, seems to select light comedy parts, when she is quite able to do good dramatic work under the right director. Jordana Brewster is seen as the older Phoebe and makes a wonderful contribution to the film. She is a stunning beauty with what seems to be a naturalness for acting. Christopher Eccleston is Wolf and shows he also is capable of doing more serious drama. The sweet Camilla Belle plays the younger Phoebe quite convincingly. Blythe Danner appears as the mother of the girls.

The European locations are gloriously photographed by Henry Braham. The film is also enhanced by the musical score of Nick Laird-Clowes and Petra Haden's original song. Elizabeth Kling edited with great elegance. Ultimately, this film shows Adam Brooks in great form as he gives the right tone to the adaptation of the novel and gets rewarded by having the right cast doing wonders for him.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A waste of talent

16 July 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film should have been much better than it was. Christopher Eccleston is an excellent actor but even he couldn't rescue this tale of a young woman searching for the truth over her sister's death. Spoiler warning : In effect the truth is that the older sister ( played by Diaz) is just a spoilt, selfish and shallow girl who took too many drugs. Not much of a twist and not that interesting either. The film is also overladen with far too many flashbacks and voice overs and lacks dramatic pacing. All in all this is definitely worth missing - not to be recommended.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

when the book is better....

Author: vreelande from North Carolina
21 June 2001

Those disappointed in the film "The Invisible Circus" would make a better investment by purchasing the novel by Jennifer Egan. Written from the perspective of eighteen-year-old Pheobe, the novel is an enchanting coming-of-age story with the added intrigue of her lost "hippie" sister.

Most of the narrative focuses on Pheobe's inner thoughts; which no doubt made translating it to the screen a difficult task. Debates on whether it is a "chick flick" are warranted; both the film and the novel center heavily on the female viewpoint.

In response to the first posted review, the paintings by Pheobe's father, Gene, are *supposed* to be awful. Part of the narrative focuses on Pheobe's realization that her father was not a sainted, thwarted artist, but an ordinary man.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The invisible circus: The visible flaws

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
18 November 2007

'Just watched this film last night. With a cast like Danner, Ecceleston and Diaz I'd expected something better. It is mainly the direction and lack of story development that stand out like a bruise. There are wonderful location shots of both America and Europe but what use is all this if the film itself is weak? With the story idea it could have been much more engaging. The whole love angle between Brewster and Ecceleston's character was irrelevant. The two actors hardly have any chemistry. The scene where Brewster hallucinates her sister behind the door just create unnecessary deviation. Alright, her character sniffed some coke but how did that fit in with the rest?

Talking of performances, Cameron Diaz stands out. One wonders why she doesn't concentrate more on such roles rather than starring in non-funny toilet-humoured comedies. The actress proves that she can take on a serious role and is wonderful. Her scenes are worth watching and she's the only character we can sympathize with. Ecceleston, though a very good actor, his role seems to lack something. However, he and Diaz do share a good chemistry. Brewster isn't convincing at all. Blythe Danner does well in a small role. So what do we get from this film? Nice shots of Portugal, Holland, France etc, a great performance by Diaz and...that's it.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Has some value but is generally unconvincing and lacks good writing

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
29 May 2005

In the early 1960's, two sisters are growing up. Faith is the elder of the two and is the apple of her father's eye – listening to all his talk of art and freedom, while younger Phoebe is given less attention. When their father dies, Faith takes it the hardest – near comatose at first but then getting into any revolution or cause that the period allows her to support. Heading off to Europe with her boyfriend, it is only a few months before her death brings even more pain to the family. Older now, Phoebe decides to use her sister's daily postcards as a guide and follow her footsteps around Europe to try and work out what happened to her.

With a quite famous cast, I decided to give this film a look but found that despite the professional sheen on it, this isn't that good a film. The plot is too unlikely, unconvincing and delivered in a phased manner that doesn't really work. Phoebe's journey is pretty unnecessary and her reasons for it didn't make a great deal of sense; it relied too much on some form of mysticism that it never earned (or kept consistent). The truth behind Faith's death unfolds but it does it in a lazy way – Wolf just keeps revealing a bit more every here and there, why he suddenly feels he has to tell things that he had secret two minutes ago is not clear but the film uses it to keep things moving. Meanwhile, in flashback, Faith's story is unconvincing – she is naïve, stupid and her political journey comes across as nothing more than the rebellion of any teenager.

It didn't help to have Diaz playing the role because she can't go beyond the character's surface and just ends up with a very basic performance that never got close to the sort of emotional turmoil that would have been needed to make a convincing Faith. Brewster is much better although it would have been a nice touch to cast two actresses that look like they could have at least come from the same family. Brewster has plenty of clunky lines to deliver but does reasonably well and she is allowed to nail Faith's character bang on the money at the end. She also has a good chemistry with Eccleston, which helps to cover up for the fact that the romance between them is a bad idea that didn't work that well. He is interesting enough though and shows he is a good actor by making more of the material than was on the page. The direction makes the most of nice European locations but it totally fails to capture a sense of time – apart from some haircuts and costumes there is very little to tell you when the film is happening and, even if you know, it never feels like the period it wants to be of.

Overall it feels interesting enough and has emotional moments and nice touches in it but generally it doesn't work because the writing is poor and cannot make the story work; like another reviewer has said, it comes across rather contrived. The performances from Brewster and Eccleston are both better than the material but Diaz is too weak considering the weight she is asked to carry.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Just About Works

Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
26 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This received its British network television premiere at 3.20 am on Channel 4 . Believe me this is never the sign of a good movie since in the last few weeks we've had to endure garbage like THIS FILTHY EARTH and DEAD BABIES also being given their premieres at an ungodly hour and boy did they deserve not to be seen

I have to admit I made a point of watching THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS since it featured Christopher Eccleston , an actor I've admired since his debut in LET HIM HAVE IT ( Hands up who'd be watching the new series of DOCTOR WHO if it starred a children's television presenter instead of a serious actor ? ) but from the opening sequence of Cameron Diaz dancing in slow motion I was convinced I was going to be watching another piece of pretentious art house crap and as soon as I heard Phoebe's voice over I was having reservations about the movie . Bare in mind I was watching this about 3.30 am which is far too late to be staying up even if you're single

The worst part of this movie is the start since it's rather sentimental and 60s agitpop man . Phoebe's father dies and her elder sister Faith leaves the house to go to Europe with her lefty hippy friends . Faith dies and a few years later Phoebe travels to Europe to find out what happened to her sister . The story then picks up as it turns out Faith joined the German Red Army Faction and after committing a bombing that killed a young father she commits suicide by jumping off a cliff in Portugal Yeah okay the plot featuring Faith becoming a commie terrorist is very unlikely but despite this it's acted well enough for the audience to be taken in if not totally convinced . But I don't want to give the impression that THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS is a kind of political Euro thriller in the vein of RONIN or YEAR OF THE GUN because that's not what the movie is about , what it's about is guilt and redemption and just about succeeds on this level . It's beautifully acted by the cast but Eccleston is always good while Cameron Diaz is a revelation and makes me wonder what she's doing making crap like CHARLIES ANGELS ?

And as a footnote Eccleston's character is called Wolf . It's strange because in the current series of DOCTOR WHO there's numerous references to " Bad Wolf " and one can't help thinking that since Russell T Davies is a self conscious post modernist writer this might have something to do with Eccleston's role in this movie . We shall see

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Journey to the end of the road

Author: David Igra from Stockholm, Sweden
29 July 2002

So it isn't an epic, but for people experiencing anything similar

(sibling suicide) it might be an interesting way of therapy. An

imaginative narrative and some fine acting makes it time well

spent. For some reason, it hasn't really caught on in the audience,

something I do believe is a result of the main theme. Why did she

commit suicide? Clearly, this is hardly something that US

moviegoers will flock to, had it been an European production it

probably would have reached its audience in a much greater

extent. It is however, a movie that although the realism tainted by a

shimmering romanticized glow, gives the viewer a whole hearted


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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:


Author: rosegirl from USA
1 October 2001

I wanted to love this film so badly...I really did. But it was a horrible disappointment.

I read Jennifer Egan's novel in 1996 and was enthralled by the story. In fact it remains one of my favorite books of all time. Mind you, the book had much more depth than this movie, in plot and emotional resonance. It MADE you care about the characters. It painted a complete picture of Phoebe, unlike the utterly poor characterization of the young girl in the film.

Though beautiful and showing *some* promise in her burgeoning career, Jordana Brewster was as flat and hollow in this performance as was the script. And Christopher Eccleston (Wolf) was just an awful choice for the role of Wolf, both physically and logistically. What an awkward looking couple. Wolf should have been more of a dark brooding character, and more physically alluring, like he was in the book. What's more, the chemistry between the two actors was painfully forced.

Cameron Diaz, however, deserves utmost praise for her performance. She took an impossibly mediocre script and gave her character life, a real spirit. She is simply gorgeous and her careful mannerisms make her very believable as a hippie. It's too bad her talent was squandered on this forgettable film.

In the book-to-movie category, this is a dreadful translation, almost as bad as Message in a Bottle with Kevin Costner. But don't get me started on that one...

I am not usually so harsh in my critiques but I was so disappointed here, because I really cared about the story and wanted to see it told right. It did not deliver...

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