ABANDON (2002)

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ABANDON(director/writer: Stephen Gaghan; screenwriter: from the novel Adam’s Fall by Sean Desmond; cinematographer: Matthew Libatique; editor: Mark Warner; music: Clint Mansell; cast: Katie Holmes (Katie Burke), Benjamin Bratt (Detective Wade Handler), Charlie Hunnam (Embry Langan), Zooey Deschanel (Samantha Harper), Melanie Lynsky (Mousy Julie), Gabriel Mann (Harrison Hobart), Tony Goldwyn (Dr. David Schaffer), Gabrielle Union (Amanda Luttrell); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Gary Barber/Roger Birnbaum/Lynda Obst/Edward Zwick; Paramount Pictures; 2002)
“Lacked an emotionally endearing story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stephen Gaghan’s Abandon is a psychological thriller set in a small-town college campus. Gaghan wrote the screenplay for Traffic, winning an Oscar. Abandon is loosely based on the book Adam’s Fall by Sean Desmond. Katie Holmes stars as Katie Burke, an ambitious college student from working-class parents who earned a scholarship toa top-notch private college and is set to graduate on top of her class as a finance major. But filled with anxiety, Katie is concerned about competition in the job market, where she is being recruited for a job with a major firm called McKinsey. Katie is further disturbed by the apparent re-emergence of the dream man of her life, ex-boyfriend, Embry Langan (Charlie Hunnam), someone she is still obsessed with. He’s a handsome, wealthy, artistic eccentric, who mysteriously disappeared two years earlier following a performance caught on film where he tells the audience seeing his play to screw off. The lovers were supposed to go to Europe together before Embry called things off.

It’s now two years later and handsome Detective Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt) is assigned the reopened case of the missing Embry Langan. Wade attends AA meetings for his alcohol abuse problem, and tries to turn his life around by leading a quiet bookish life. Wade appears on campus to question the students, but he becomes more interested in pursuing Katie and a romance between the two blossoms–though there seemed to be no passion between the two to convince me either has fallen in love. Yet the film gets its title as the cop lets go of his cop instincts and falls for the troubled girl with abandonment. Katie acts as if she had ice in her veins, as she leads on the cop.

The emotionally exhausted Katie is seeing a shrink (Tony Goldwyn) and telling him of her weird dreams and trouble finishing her thesis on “emerging ancillary markets in the global wireless revolution.” Katie also tells the shrink she thinks Embry has returned.

The crux of the film is about Katie being stalked by the pompous Embry, a ghost-like figure who displays violent tendencies. Katie tells Wade about this stalking experience and the two plan to go away together to Wade’s country home in New Hampshire, as Katie can’t face Embry again and seeks comfort from the cop (rejection is the big problem for this Psychology 101 melodrama and becomes the way of explaining the main character’s motivation).

Gaghan strives to make Abandon a moody psychological thriller along the lines of Vertigo, but he lacks the filmmaking know-how to build suspense and deliver a narrative with some zip. The only live-wire in the film was scene-stealer Zooey Deschanel as one of Katie’s more endearing college roomies. Abandon lacked an emotionally endearing story to bring such overstated psychological pretensions to fruition, though I still think the fledgling director shows some potential despite this failed effort.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”