The final film of Brittany Murphy arrives in the form of Abandoned, a low-grade psychological thriller put together with little imagination, and thus destined to be nothing more than the answer to a morbid trivia question.
Directed by Michael Feifer, Abandoned follows Mary Walsh (Murphy) as she delivers new-ish boyfriend Kevin (Dean Cain) to a hospital for an outpatient orthopedic surgery. But when Mary goes to take him home, Kevin is nowhere to be found. The hospital administrator (Mimi Rogers) can’t locate any record of him, and an assholish security guard, Holloway (Scott Anthony Leet), isn’t much help either. Detective Franklin (Jay Pickett) arrives, and conducts a more thorough search, but also turns up nothing. An increasingly frantic Mary is taken to a staff psychiatrist (Peter Bogdanovich), who pronounces her unstable. When a stranger informs Mary he knows of Kevin’s whereabouts, but demands a $10 million ransom, Mary attempts to spring into action to save herself and the man she loves.
It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, I realize, but I’ll say what’s lingering in the mind of anyone who paid even just a fair amount of attention to the trajectory of Murphy’s career: her appearance had become a problem. Or maybe that’s not fair… a distraction, let’s say. An impediment. Everything that was special about Murphy in her best work — Clueless, Girl, Interrupted, Don’t Say a Word, 8 Mile — and even the buoyancy that she carried with her through paycheck projects like Just Married and Little Black Book had slowly been worn down and stripped away, replaced by a fragile performer whose lack of self-confidence in her own appearance was evident in her Botoxed lips, dyed hair and starved frame. Whatever specific problems she had offscreen, it’s clear that Murphy was trying to fit someone else’s preconceived notion of what a young actress should be, and look like, and it started to warp her work, in movies like The Dead Girl and Deadline. Over the last couple years, you couldn’t just watch Murphy in a role anymore — you saw someone whose confidence had been shattered, whose charms had disappeared or been tucked away somewhere for the moment inaccessible.
There are trace elements of her talent here — a flinty reserve of steely nerve, and flashes of quiet anger when Bogdanovich’s doctor renders his diagnosis), but they’re measurable in mere seconds, alas. Abandoned doesn’t give Murphy (or any of its other performers, really) good material with which to work, but neither does Murphy elevate it, or make it something interesting and engaging. The result is an utterly forgettable work, and a sad end to a once-promising career.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Abandoned comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track. Apart from a trailer and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, there are unfortunately no supplemental bonus features here, further relegating the title to trivia-question-level anonymity. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. D (Movie) D (Disc)