Today: May 26, 2024

Columbus Circle

When an elderly woman dies in mysterious circumstances in her Manhattan penthouse, her death throws the carefully structured life of her reclusive neighbor into turmoil.

When an elderly
woman dies in mysterious circumstances in her Manhattan penthouse, her death
throws the carefully structured life of her reclusive neighbor into
turmoil.
Independently wealthy agoraphobic Abigail Clayton (Selma Blair) hasn’t left her apartment
in 18 years. Now in her 30s, her only contact with the outside world
has been the building’s weasely concierge (co-writer Kevin Pollak) and family friend and doctor Raymond Fontaine (Beau Bridges) until inquisitive
Homicide Detective Frank Giardello (Giovanni
Ribisi
) knocks on her door looking for answers. The old woman’s
death looks like a simple fall but Frank suspects murder.

Abigail’s solitude is further threatened when young,
yuppie couple, Charlie (Jason Lee)
and Lillian (Amy Smart), move in
across the hall. Smooth and charming in public, in private Charlie
is a violent drunk who regularly beats his wife. Despite herself,
the neurotic and lonely Abigail finds herself drawn to Lillian, befriending
her. But as the violence escalates, are Charlie and Lillian all that
they seem and what is the secret Abigail’s hiding? Just who can
Abigail trust?

Muddled and at once both convoluted and
predictable, Columbus Circle is a thriller that offers few surprises. The
story, a vulnerable rich woman is the victim of a conspiracy to bilk her out of
her fortune, feels like an update of a Victorian melodrama and is reminiscent
of Sarah WatersFingersmith. In
fact, Columbus
Circle
could have benefited from some of the breathless
Sapphic passion of Waters’ novel, particularly as the friendship between Blair
and Smart just seems to move a little too swiftly. Plus, the
addition of lesbians instantly makes most films better.

While there are some nice moments (Blair’s elderly
neighbour’s murder, a mobile phone ringtone leading Ribisi to a buried corpse)
Gallo and Pollak’s script is formulaic, the dialogue pedestrian. It
lacks the zing of Gallo’s work on the sublime Midnight Run and
their commitment to spoon-feeding the audience and s…p…e…l…l…i…n…g out each and
every plot point, consistently undercuts any tension that’s built
up. Also, considering she’s an agoraphobe who hasn’t left the house
in two decades Blair looks pretty darn good. Would her wardrobe
really be that nice? Don’t you think she’d be just a little wild and
unkempt, a little disheveled? Isn’t her almost instantaneous triumph
over the agoraphobia that’s kept her prisoner in her own apartment just a
little too convenient for the plot? And just why is an agoraphobe
living in an apartment in a multiple occupancy building in the middle of one of
the busiest cities on Earth? She’s rich. If she really
wanted to stay home alone she could have moved to a cabin in Greenland.

The film’s saving grace however is its
performances. While Smart is a little wooden and Lee brings to the
role of a duplicitous, wife-beating con-man all the gravitas you’d expect from
a skateboarding professional douchebag and star of Alvin and the Chipmunks:
The Squeakquel
, Blair is excellent as the brittle, fragile
Abigail, at once needy and unlikable while still retaining the audience’s
sympathies. Ribisi meanwhile shines in the relatively secondary role
as the film’s overworked and conscientious homicide cop.

Competent and slight, Columbus Circle is
mildly diverting and a decent enough way to waste 86 minutes.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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