Some years ago, I met Brittany Murphy, when she came by to talk about her movie, Little Black Book. Glowing with excitement and anticipation as if this were her first big screen venture as an actress, the petite, jittery starlet was giggly and nervous as can be.
And when she extended her pale, bony hand in greeting, it was nearly cold as ice, as if revealing a layer beneath, of someone plagued by doubts and insecurities. Then she suddenly reached out and gave me a big hug, in a surprise, lingering gesture of seeming hunger for acceptance, of which there was no doubt to begin with on my part. And now, Brittany has tragically faded from existence, an untimely death at the age of thirty two, from a combination of pneumonia, anemia and drug intoxication, they say. But that sparkle endures.
And along with the persistent memory of a talent never allowed the time on earth to fully blossom, is the last movie Brittany completed before leaving us. And in its own way, Abandoned is not only a chilling reminder of what death repeatedly deprives us of in this world, but how this sadly too familiar medical thriller graced her short life.
The late actress plays Mary Walsh in Abandoned, an insecure young woman with her share of many romantic disappointments. But who believes she’s found the true love she’s waited for seemingly forever in Kevin (Dean Cain), a caring and affectionate guy she’s known for only a few months.
When Kevin suffers a leg injury and requires orthopedic surgery, Mary takes him to the hospital for his outpatient procedure. But after waiting for hours there with no word, she makes inquiries and is told by staff that there is no Kevin in their hospital records, nor any sign of his reported medical team in question.
And as the hospital staff starts tailing the increasingly panicked woman around the many winding corridors, Mary begins to sense that she is either the victim of some mysterious foul play, or else going completely insane. While the hospital authorities discovering her stash of barbiturates in her purse and that she’s recently been hospitalized as a mental patient, doesn’t help matters.
Abandoned effectively keeps audiences in their own state of perpetually unresolved panic, as evidence continually veers back and forth between suspicions against a sinister medical establishment – which is not at all difficult to muster, given their current track record in the real world – and hunches that Mary may be truly bonkers. And while plot resolutions may seem on the unconvincing and contrived side for some, there’s no denying that this is a mesmerizing and bittersweet showcase for Brittany, no matter what she’s up to at any moment in time.
In another sadly coincidental footnote, Peter Bogdanovich plays the concerned tough love staff psychiatrist reaching out to ease Brittany’s anguish. And his own triumphant directorial 1971 screen classic was of course, The Last Picture Show.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
2 1/2 [out of 4] stars
DVD Features: Theatrical Trailers.