A minor, flawed drama that still deserved a bit larger audience than it found, "The Invisible Circus" is a beautifully photographed and well-acted drama that, for some reason, still remains only passibly involving. As the film opens, we're introduced to Phoebe (Jordana Brewster, of "Fast and the Furious"), who recalls the mysterious death of her free-spirit older sister, Faith (Cameron Diaz). While some said that she killed herself, Phoebe isn't so sure.
Although there are plenty of flashbacks to the 60's, the majority of the story takes place in the 70's, as Phoebe goes to Europe to retrace her older sister's path and meet up with Wolf (Christopher Eccleston), Faith's old boyfriend, who eventually reveals the kind of troubling and dangerous situation that Faith got herself involved in.
Based upon a novel by Jennifer Egan and directed by Adam Brooks, the film takes a potentially enjoyable coming-of-age/mystery story and doesn't manage to do very much with it. With a short 93 minute running time, the story seems compressed, with a few too many voice-overs telling the viewer what they could have figured out on their own. The flashbacks also occasionally seem awkwardly inserted into the story at times. Once Pheobe gets to Europe, the film also wanders, with not enough emphasis put on searching for a point - one lengthy sequence where Phoebe takes LSD and talks to her sister in a window for what seems like five minutes seems particularly pointless. Its second half, which progressively becomes more dramatic, also is less enjoyable than the first. It also begins to get a little irritating how Eccelston's character manages to reveal major information only at certain points that would realistically have been said earlier.
Still, there are things that I enjoyed about the film. Cameron Diaz is wonderful in her few scenes, perfectly portraying a hippie/free-spirit and the drama/emotion of what she finds herself involved in. The film's feeling of freedom and of exploring what the world has to offer is also highly enjoyable. The film's many locations (Portugal, Paris, California,the Netherlands) are also captured beautifully by cinematographer Henry Braham ("Waking Ned Devine"). Diaz's minor role is the most enjoyable, while Jordana Brewster also provides a decent performance (although it's kinda odd that she plays the sister of Diaz and the daughter of Blythe Danner, although she looks nothing like either). Eccleston is okay, but he never really interacts paritcularly well either either Diaz or Brewster. Brewster and Diaz, in their few scenes together, do strongly portray sisters.
I didn't mind "Invisible Circus". It never really came together as either the coming-of-age story or mystery it wanted to be, but I liked the performances and the scenery certainly kept my attention. While the film remained watchable, I just thought more could have been done - story/character development - to make it memorable.
VIDEO: New Line presents "The Invisible Circus" in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. Both presentations are included on the same side of a dual-layer disc and are accessible from the main menu. The anamorphic widescreen presentation continues the studio's commitment to consistent excellence in terms of their presentations; even their minor catalog titles look impressive. Sharpness and detail here are consistently terrific; the picture sports a crisp, "film-like" look.
Still, there are some minor faults scattered about. Some very light edge enhancement is present in a couple of scenes, but didn't really cause much bother. No pixelation - not even minor traces - was seen, while the print used was in terrific condition, with not even a speck or mark.
The film's warm, bright color palette looked stellar, appearing well-saturated and bold, with no smearing. Black level was solid, as well. Not without a few minor concerns, but still a very nice looking presentation.
SOUND: New Line presents "Invisible Circus" in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is fine, as it provides a bit more than what's expected out of a purely dialogue-driven feature. Some minor ambience is occasionally present in the rear speakers, as is some reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is pleasant, as the score sounded crystal clear, as did dialogue. A nice - if rather basic - sound mix.
EXTRAS: The trailer for "Invisible Circus" and the trailers for three other New Line titles: "Human Nature", "Storytelling" and "Cherish".
Final Thoughts: "Invisible Circus" offers fine performances from the leads, but the story never really comes together terribly well. New Line's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality, but little in the way of supplements. Maybe a rental for those interested.
The Film ** 1/2