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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Abandon

Starring: Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Melanie Lynskey, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Union

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

During the late 1960's and early 1970's, when college students across the land were protesting the Vietnam War, the "America: Love It Or Leave It" types would sniff, "These kids should be sitting in the classroom and learning. That's what college is for." Not exactly. People do not give up their humanity when they enter the ivy-coated walls of the university. Though most are merely at the cusp of adolescence, students are three- dimensional human beings and what's more their hormones require activity. Activity during what used to be an idealistic age could properly be directed at protests especially if rock music accompanies. One of the principal characters of "Abandon," Embry (Charlie Hunnam), is not necessarily idealistic but he's certainly keen on activity outside the classroom. About to graduate summa cum laude from a prestigious school (actually filmed at McGill University in Montreal), he suddenly disappears, leaving behind two first-class tickets to Athens. Vanished into thin air. Suddenly the police want to know why and where. (Don't ask what the cops were doing just after his disappearance.)

"Abandon," then deals with Embry's abandonment of college and of his girlfriend Katie (Katie Holmes), a theme that dovetails into Katie's abandonment by her dad when she was young, which links into Katie's abandoning Harrison (Gabriel Mann) who eagerly pursues her following Embry's disappearance. Credit writer- director Stephen Gagham, whose resume includes scripting of "Rules of Engagement" and "'Traffic," with giving his audience a Hitchcockian psychological thriller which may not make us overly familiar with the edges of our seats but which is an intriguing detective story/thriller/romance filled with engaging characters.

Katie and Embry are the most engaging of all. Embry, for example that's the guy who disappeared just before graduating summa cum laude and who had previously set off on an archeological expedition of Crete is seen leading a large chorus of college students in the performance of William S. Byrd's "Gloria" from "Mass for Four Voices" which is supposed to be a Latin mass written by monks not for the entertainment of other human beings but directly to God. The charismatic Embry (played by a guy who may just be the next Brad Pitt) commands the attention of a rock star in leading his group singing in Latin, selecting none other than Katie to be his star soprano. Hence their relationship, cut off mysteriously by Embry's disappearance.

Gaghan wants to explore various sides of Katie to give us a fairly deep picture of this conflicted human being, one who is under pressure to complete her senior thesis, to study for finals, and to prepare for and go on job interviews. (She has a 3.94 GPA, which makes one of her interviewers think she can calculate how many pennies it would take to fill the interview room.) Katie is pursued by Harrison despite his being told that the two of them are just friends. Katie is pursued by the school psychologist to whom she repairs to talk about her stress. Katie is pursued by a detective, Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), and by the team of interviewers for a finance company and more particularly by one particular fellow who is about to become a partner in that very firm. Everyone likes Katie. Why? Who knows? She's cute and a fine actress, but I'd probably go for Zooey Deschanel. She's the one who stole the show from Jake Gyllenhaal and Jennifer Anniston in "The Good Girl." I hope she never tries to play Medea or Lady Macbeth but in comic roles she's a knockout. Here Ms. Deschanel does not get the chance to say naughty things over the microphone to shoppers at a Wal-Mart, but she captures every funny line in "Abandon" with her sexual advice to her roommates and others.

No, college is not just for study. Anyone who has been to the movies during the past couple of years knows that every university east and west of Bob Jones University is the place to have fun before donning your Brooks Brothers suit, Paisley tie, and tasseled loafers. But Katie is not having the kind of fun she would like, not after being abandoned by the love of her life, and "Abandon," while not being terribly original or about to move Hitchcock and Polanski aside is a well-made package of chills and obsession.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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