Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Movie review: Columbus Circle, dir George Gallo (2012)

Selma Blair as Abigail talks with Ray, played
by Beau Bridges, in Columbus Circle.
This pretty little ensemble piece has the added attraction that it deals with the top end of town, a part of the world characterised by an intense longing for privacy. There was another film about this social locus, the unfortunately credibility-free Tower Heist from 2011, but Columbus Circle wins hands down in the acting stakes, and for suspense. This Hitchcockian thriller has a tightly-sprung plot and an economical method of delivery where every small gesture and pause comes loaded with meaning.

The premise is simple but to disclose it would spoil the surprise. You can say, however, that a lot of the action takes place around the doorway to Abigail's apartment, a place where she has lived alone for decades without venturing out into the world. Abigail's apartment is one of two located on the penthouse level of Columbus Circle, a high-end residential address in New York. One night her neighbour is killed, and the murder is made to look like an accident. Her calm is shattered when a policeman from the NYPD knocks on her door the next morning looking for information. It gets a lot worse for Abigail when the next-door apartment is rented out to a young couple, Lillian (Amy Smart) and Charles (Jason Lee). Abigail had tried to buy the next-door apartment but failed. She fears her precious peace will be further disturbed by the new arrivals.

It is disturbed, and in unexpected ways. One night Lillian stumbles into the hallway with Charles behind cruelly beating her and Abigail manages to drag the nightgown-clad blonde into her silent domain, where the two spend the night. The episode brings up bad memories for Abigail from her own violence-prone childhood, which are rendered in quick flashbacks. It also serves to create a bond between Abigail and Lillian, which is encouraged by a few words from Ray, an old acquaintance of Abigail's whom she trusts for advice and counsel. Abigail then invites Lillian to dinner, for which she cooks a delicious meal accompanied by fine wine. The two women exchange stories and talk about their lives of violence and their hopes.

Charles is a plausible thug. One day when Lillian convinces Abigail to leave her apartment to go out, Charles returns home apparently drunk. Cowering under a table in the hallway, Abigail gazes up into Charles' face and the bad memories return in force. Abigail is rigid with anxiety as she squats on the grey carpet, unable to move. When Charles enters her apartment soon after this brief encounter, however, he doesn't seem drunk at all, considering the way he darts purposefully through the doorway. But Abigail is unable to take in this shift in tone. The viewer is not.

Tight scripting like this functions effectively throughout the film, as when the two detectives - Frank Giardello (Giovanni Ribisi) and Jerry Eanns (Jason Antoon) - pay a visit to Ray at his comfortable suburban house and question him about his relationship to the dead woman and to Abigail. Giardello is a careful observer, even going so far as to visit an antiques dealer in order to find out what the mark on the cup that contained the coffee that Abigail had served him when he visited her to ask about the killing represented. The antiques dealer tells him that the mark is not an 'M', as Giardello had thought. It is actually a 'W', and belongs to a famous family of great privilege by the name of Winter, a family featured in a TV segment that had been shown while Abigail went about her daily business online using her white iMac.

Once Charles darts almost unseen into Abigail's apartment the axis upon which the movie turns shifts decisively, and while the real motivations of Charles and Lillian are uncovered, the outcome of the drama is not at all clear. It remains in doubt until almost the very end of the film, and the film keeps the viewer in suspense throughout. This is a lovely movie that will delight viewers.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't get this movie. Why did the detectives just let her walk at the end?

floyd kuhn said...

I think because she recognized the plot to get her money and then changed her identity to Lillian in the end of movie in taxi. She left #.20 in the account to lillians surprised when she thought millions were in there. Lillian was handcuffed (portraying abigail) while the realabigail left in a tazi and said she is going somewhjere warm and her name is Lillian. she really got over on them 2

floyd kuhn said...

I think because she(the real Abigail) recognized the plot to get her money and then changed her identity to Lillian in the end of movie in taxi. She left #.20 in the account to lillians surprised when she thought millions were in there. Lillian was handcuffed (portraying abigail) while the real Abigail left in a tazi and said she is going somewhere warm and her name is Lillian. she really got over on them 2

Anonymous said...

.., while lilian had already caught by police , why abigail took lilian's name anyway ? That end of story is very confusing, i was enjoying this movie up until that part...and left me with big question