Monday, January 16, 2012

You just sort of drift through it like a mist as though you were weightless...

The Invisible Circus
Fine Line Features
Written and directed by Adam Brooks
Based on the book by Jennifer Egan
98 minutes
Rated R (for sexuality, language and drug content)

The sixties and early seventies, of course, have been explored in countless movies, television productions and books, and each year more and more seem to be produced. Many of them seem to mimic each other at times, but it takes a real vision to truly touch a nerve about that tumultous time period, to truly nail a specific emotion or subject from that era that has never before been addressed so specifically and so well. The Invisible Circus is one such attempt at doing so.

The movie technically opens (you'll see what I mean by "technically" in a moment) in the early seventies. A wide-eyed young girl named Phoebe (Jordana Brewster) is reflective on the fact that the older sister she worshipped, appropriately named Faith (Cameron Diaz), had set off years ago to truly live and accomplish something in life as their good artistic father taught her. Because it was the sixties, Faith had become drawn into a colorful group of hippies meeting a hawk-faced longhair named Wolf (Christopher Eccleston) and consequentially journeyed with them off to the lovely delights of Europe... and never came back. Bored staying in a quiet humdrum little blah life with her mother, Phoebe decides to travel in her sister's footsteps to discover exactly why.

If it's at all possible, The Invisible Circus is even dreamier and more surrealistically dramatic and studied than Sophia Copolla's The Virgin Suicides, so much so that it leaves you drifting on a mist the film creates floating over the screen you're watching it on. This is not at all a fast-moving film; it's very slow, quiet, reflective, and its filled with idealistic coming-of-age dialogue with their evergrowing meanings chanted over and over.

The film wants to both hypnotize you and keep you reflective at the same time, and whether or not it succeeds in doing so depends on you personally; this is the sort of movie you'll film either entrancingly fascinating or drop dead boring, depending on your personality. It's based on a novel I've never read personally, but I get the impression that it must be extremely faithful to its source. There's a scene involving a glass reflection that was eerily effective and at the same time seemed lifted directly out of the sort of writing you find on the written page, not a film script, and that's not at all a bad thing. The whole film flashes back and forth moodily between what had occured before and what is currently happening in the movie like an odd game of tug-of-war, but you never feel lost in what's being portrayed or expressed; rather you are sort of weirdly wisping through it like a dream. The cinematography is gorgeous and captures perfectly the spectacular beauty of the towns and their surrounding countrysides.

As for the story itself, it is quietly meditating on the dark side of the hippie movement, how important it is to stay true to what you personally wish to accomplish and do for the world and others in it as opposed to what others insist is supposed to be the "right" direction even though it is clearly wrong. Faith is neither a "bad girl" nor a rebel by any means, but (and I'm being careful not to give away too much here) we learn that for a period of time she naively believed all sorts of wild ideas in her trust that she was helping to better the world before she was finally stopped dead in her tracks when she realized just how overly trusting she had been in the actions and opinions of others. And should you choose to let this movie carry you along with it, it may have you personally reflecting on such moments in your own life and what was truly what you've learned back then regarding what is really The Correct Way to make a difference, as opposed to merely going along with how you are instructed to do so.

I can't recommend The Invisible Circle to just anyone, but that's because of its uniquely foggy style which guarantees that not everybody is going to like it. A drama that feels more like you are dreaming it as opposed to cinematically experiencing it, it is clearly made for a specific audience. But if any of this happens to sound right up your alley, then by all means, let go and pursue it. Just don't expect any wildly flashing sirens or screams along the way... simply let it lift you up like a cork and carry you along the trip.