Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I'm Just Gonna Keep On Livin'

CLUELESS co-star Brittany Murphy had been dead almost a year by the time her final film finally hit video stores. She plays a banker named Mary, who takes the morning off work to accompany her boyfriend-of-four-months Kevin (Dean Cain, who appears to be eating well in his middle age) to the hospital, where he is to have routine outpatient knee surgery. To cut down on expensive extras, the hospital is said to be closing down for renovations, so most of the patients have been transferred elsewhere.

In a retread of DYING ROOM ONLY, THE VANISHING, BREAKDOWN, etc., Mary goes downstairs for coffee and returns to find Kevin gone with just his tattered paperback left behind. None of the nurses admits having seen or heard of Kevin, and there’s no record of his admittance in the hospital computer. The hospital administrator (Mimi Rogers, who has little to do), security chief (Scott Anthony Leet), psychiatrist (LAST PICTURE SHOW director Peter Bogdanovich), and police detective assigned to the case (Jay Pickett) all think Mary is crazy and that no boyfriend exists.

If they see Mary the way we see Murphy, their attitude is understandable. It may be unfair to discuss an actress’ appearance within the context of a film review, but it’s hard to avoid in the case of ABANDONED. Poor Brittany looks a mess with scraggly hair, sunken eyes, surgically enhanced lips, and massive weight loss, and the high-definition photography does her no favors. Her performance seems distracted by whatever demons she was wrestling near the end of her life, and it’s difficult to buy Mary as someone who wouldn’t fall apart at the first sign of emotional stress.

The movie isn’t much good. Tim Thomerson (TRANCERS) pops in for an early scene as a lonely old man who chats up Mary in the cafeteria, and you know the producers didn’t pay Thomerson’s day rate just for that. A plot thread involving Mary’s best friend from work goes frustratingly unresolved (actually, several do), and director Michael Feifer goes to so much trouble to avoid showing the title of Kevin’s paperback that it comes as zero surprise when it turns out to be a clue.

ABANDONED is dedicated to Murphy’s memory. One of her last lines is, “I’m just gonna keep on livin’. One day at a time.” Which will break your heart.

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