The Invisible Circus

Whereas most movies will try to show how a man/woman became an adult, The Invisible Circus, based on the book by Jennifer Egan, shows the loss of innocence of two sisters. In 1971, Faith killed herself in Portugal. Six years later, Faith's sister Phoebe travels to Europe to retrace her sister's steps and possibly discover why. Faith (Cameron Diaz, Charlie's Angels, Any Given Sunday) was the quintessential hippie chick. She was a free spirit who wanted to change the world for the better. Faith found that the more she did, the more she wanted to do. Going to Europe was her way of rebelling against the world, and her way of searching for meaning within her life.

Phoebe (Jordana Brewster, The Faculty, The Fast and the Furious) sees Faith through the adoring eyes of a little sister. She was too young to fully understand the more complex issues of her family, and the interaction between Faith and her parents. To Phoebe, Faith left and never came back, and she wants to know why. In Europe, she meets Wolf (Christopher Eccleston, eXistenZ, Elizabeth), Faith's old boyfriend. He is reluctant to talk about Faith's suicide, but eventually begins retracing her steps with Phoebe. During her time in Europe, Faith became increasingly extremist, joining anti-government groups in different countries.

Ultimately, Phoebe must deal with the reality of her sister's life coming up against her memories. Writer/director Adam Brooks (Beloved, Practical Magic) weaves Faith's and Phoebe's stories together. As Phoebe travels further along her journey, she learns more about Faith's life. The main disconnect is that the audience knows what Phoebe will never know. The Invisible Circus shows the entirety of Faith's experiences where Phoebe learns about Faith through the eyes of Wolf. The film can get away with saying that Wolf knew everything, but this cannot explain everything. Also, in looking for the truth about Faith, she is now seeing her sister through the eyes of Faith's boyfriend. Is it still the truth?

It is also hard to really understand the characters since they remain so unreachable. Diaz plays Faith without too much depth. There is a zeal to her, but her innermost thoughts and motivations remain hidden. Phoebe is different. She internalizes much of her emotions. Instead of vocalizing something, she will let it simmer inside her. Brewster does an effective job of conveying this, but it doesn't help matters any. The person with the most dramatic change is Wolf. However, his change occurred during the intervening years, and the story does not explore what happened to cause him to 'grow up.' In the end, The Invisible Circus is the quintessential story about the loss of innocence, one done countless times before. In searching for truth about her sister, Phoebe learns about herself and ultimately bridges the gap between teenager and adulthood.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for sexuality, language, and drug content.

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