Inventing the Abbotts

April 4, 1997 0 By Fans
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Still of Billy Crudup and Joanna Going in Inventing the AbbottsStill of Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup, Joaquin Phoenix and Joanna Going in Inventing the AbbottsStill of Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup and Joaquin Phoenix in Inventing the AbbottsStill of Liv Tyler and Joaquin Phoenix in Inventing the AbbottsStill of Billy Crudup in Inventing the AbbottsStill of Billy Crudup and Joaquin Phoenix in Inventing the Abbotts


A light-hearted story of two brothers courting three sisters.

Release Year: 1997

Rating: 6.2/10 (6,438 voted)

Critic's Score: 49/100

Pat O'Connor

Stars: Liv Tyler, Jennifer Connelly, Joaquin Phoenix

Set in the 1950s, Inventing the Abbotts is a dramatic look at the life of two boys from the wrong side of the tracks and their interaction with the three daughters of local aristocrat Lloyd Abbott. The boys, Jacey and Doug have only 3 things in common: their family, table tennis and chasing the Abbott sisters.

Writers: Sue Miller, Ken Hixon


Joaquin Phoenix

Doug Holt

Billy Crudup

Jacey Holt

Will Patton

Lloyd Abbott

Kathy Baker

Helen Holt

Jennifer Connelly

Eleanor Abbott

Michael Sutton


Liv Tyler

Pamela Abbott

Joanna Going

Alice Abbott

Barbara Williams

Joan Abbott

Alessandro Nivola

Peter Vanlaningham

Nicole M. Vassallo

Giggling Girl #1

Amanda Sherman

Giggling Girl #2

Shawn Hatosy


Garrett M. Brown

Webb Crosby

Julie Benz


Love no matter what

Release Date: 4 April 1997

Filming Locations: Healdsburg, California, USA

Opening Weekend: $2,301,138
(6 April 1997)
(898 Screens)

Gross: $5,936,344
(11 June 1997)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Jennifer Connelly and Liv Tyler play sisters in this film. Connelly played Betty Ross in
Hulk, and was replaced by Tyler in
The Incredible Hulk.


When Eleanor is having sex with Jacey, and Doug walks in, her hair changes position between the away shot and the close up.


The end of my innocence began in 1957. It is remarkable to me now just how little I knew then about the people around me. It took me years to figure out exactly what the truth was, especially given my brother's knack at inventing himself.

User Review

Engaging Drama From Pat O'Connor

Rating: 8/10

The lives of two brothers living in a small town in Illinois are profoundly
affected by an alleged incident which took place even before one of them was
born, in `Inventing the Abbotts,' directed by Pat O'Connor. The Abbotts are
one of the wealthiest, most respected families in Haley, Illinois; Lloyd
Abbott (Will Patton) is a successful businessman who, along with his wife,
Joan (Barbara Williams), has raised three daughters, the oldest of whom,
Alice (Joanna Going), is about to be married, while the youngest, Pamela
(Liv Tyler), is about to graduate from high school. The Holts, on the other
hand, are from the other side of the tracks, and Helen Holt (Kathy Baker)
has had to raise her boys on her own. John (Billy Crudup), the oldest, was
two-years-old when his father was killed in an accident, while Helen was
pregnant with his brother, Doug (Joaquin Phoenix). There's no mystery about
what happened in the accident; the bone of contention concerns what happened
afterwards– at least in the eyes of John, even all these years later as he
is about to enter collage.

John and Doug's father, it seems, had been business partners with Lloyd
Abbott, but after his death, a patent that Mr. Holt owned somehow ended up
in Lloyd Abbott's name, making him a wealthy man, while the Holt's ended up
in their current state of affairs– not exactly poor, but barely making ends
meet. And since his youth, John has been fixated with the Abbotts,
especially their daughters, and one in particular, Eleanor (Jennifer
Connelly). But as with most things involving an obsession, it only put John
on a lifelong emotional road to nowhere.

Told from Doug's point of view, the story becomes a lesson in life; when to
leave the baggage of things best forgotten behind and move on. Phoenix
gives an affecting performance as Doug, who has an on-again-off-again
relationship with Pamela, the one sister who is, `Just there,' as she says
(according to her, Alice is the `good' one, Eleanor the `bad'). He captures
that sense of being at an age when uncertainty is the only absolute, and you
feel his need to search and seek out that toe-hold on life that is often
elusive to the young. There's an understated ring of truth in his portrayal
that adds that depth which makes his character credible, and one to whom it
is easy to relate.

Crudup delivers, as well, with a performance wound in introspective tension
so tightly that there are moments when it seems almost tangible. He carries
a burden– that from which his obsession was born– and it shows. John has
so much going for him (the love of his mother and brother; good looks;
intelligence), that watching him suffer so emotionally– even at arm's
length– is sad to see, especially in light of the fact that it is so
unnecessary. Still, some of his actions (especially one late in the film)
are intrinsically almost too brutal to forgive; only so much, after all, can
be buried amid rationalization. In the end, you feel for him, but only so
far; and then you are compelled to do what he could not– you move

As Pamela, Liv Tyler turns in a reserved performance that captures
something of that same sense of confusion reflected in Doug's character. A
bit more grounded, perhaps, but there is still that `searching' going on
within her. Connelly, meanwhile, gets into her role as the'bad' sister with
relish, exuding a self-assured sexual tension qualified with just enough
restraint to make Eleanor a memorable and effective character. Going does a
nice job, also, though by the nature of her character alone, she is bound to
be somewhat overshadowed by Tyler and Connelly.

The supporting cast includes Michael Sutton (Steve), Alessandro Nivola
(Peter), Shawn Hatosy (Victor) and Michael Keaton as the narrator. An
engaging and often poignant drama, `Inventing the Abbotts' puts love, loss
and confusion (one might say the mainstays of life) into perspective, and
illustrates that how we deal with it all is not necessarily a matter of
individual choice. Some, in fact, just may have to invent whatever it is
they need to hang onto. At one point in the film, Doug says of his brother,
`If the Abbotts hadn't existed, John would've invented them.' And maybe
that's the way it is; taking life as it comes and dealing with it the best
way you know how. I rate this one 8/10.