Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brittany Murphy, Dean Cain, Tim Thomerson, Mimi Rogers, Peter Bogdanovich
Directed by Michael Feifer
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Watching Abandoned is something of a depressing experience for matters that have little to do with the tepidness of the film’s quality. Abandoned marks the final film role of the late Brittany Murphy. After all the reports of drugs, anorexia, and plastic surgery that came out following her passing last year, it’s kind of difficult not to let any of that come to mind as you take notice of how physically unhealthy she looks in this movie. Months ago myself, Uncle Creepy, and some friends watched Megafault together on Xbox Live Netflix instant streaming; and I lost track of the number of times Creepy commented on how bad Murphy looked. I can only imagine what he’d say if he saw her in this. Her sunken eyes, excessively collagened lips, a general appearance of exhaustion about her, all made worse by a make-up job that – I know it seems bad taste to say this, but it really is the best comparison to be made – looks like it was put on her by a make-up artist at a funeral home. Her hair and make-up become more frazzled as the film goes on, presumably to reflect her character’s dire mental straights; even then she doesn’t appear any worse than how she appears from the outset. What happened to that fresh-faced young ingenue from Clueless? Another Hollywood tragedy that is all too familiar.
If there’s a positive regarding Murphy’s swan song, it would be that she easily turns in the best performance in an otherwise garden variety thriller that we’ve seen done countless times before (and better) by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski and most recently with Jodie Foster in Flightplan. I’m still not certain if the title Abandoned refers to the predicament Brittany Murphy’s character finds herself in or the hospital itself, conveniently in the process of being shut down to ensure a very limited amount of staff and patients on hand.
Murphy stars as bank executive Mary, taking her new boyfriend of a couple months, Kevin (Dean Cain), to the hospital for an orthopedic procedure on his leg. He complains constantly of not liking hospitals, although before long it will be Mary who develops a disdain for hospitals when Kevin vanishes, the hospital staff claim they never had him as a patient, and she cannot produce any proof that he was ever there or even exists. She starts running around the hospital trying to find him and prove to everyone that she isn’t in dire need of a rubber room.
A major problem with Abandoned is that by trying to give us a sense that Mary might actually be crazy or that the scenario is causing her to question whether she is losing her grip on sanity, it requires other characters she encounters to behave unbelievably contrary to how people typically behave in real life when presented with such a situation. I suspect if I lost my wallet in this hospital and went up to the nurse’s station to tell them I lost my wallet and ask if anyone had turned in a wallet, judging by what I just saw in this film, they wouldn’t hesitate to argue that I never owned a wallet, it was all in my mind, and it might be best if I spoke to the staff psychiatrist in order to deal with my wallet delusions. How so many of the people she interacts with treat her is only plausible if she truly is insane or every single member of this hospital is in on the conspiracy, two conceits the film never comes close to making you buy into.
You never believe for a second that Mary might be crazy. I did believe she was a bit dim for a bank exec. Much of the film is her running around this hospital trying to put two and two together; anyone paying attention should reach four long before she does.
Mimi Rogers has a fairly thankless role as the hospital administrator. Director-actor Peter Bogdanovich cameos ever so briefly as the hospital psychiatrist. The juicier role goes to Trancers‘ Tim Thomerson as the kindly old man Mary meets in the hospital cafeteria.
Director Michael Feifer has cut his teeth making shot-on-digital biographical horror movies about a variety of real-life serial killers. This is definitely a step up, but constant security camera point-of-view, actors running down what often looks to be the same hallway, people furiously typing away at keyboards, and a Swiss cheese script prevent Abandoned from ever being the taut paranoia thriller it wants to be.
2 out of 5
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