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TV drama queen stuck in reckless ‘Abandon’

On a battlefield in Hollywood, a war rages on. This familiar battle is the meter that measures the silver screen success of “teenage drama” actors, who are often adored in their small-screen adolescent dramas but don’t always make the transition to the big screen.

Somewhere, a scoreboard reads: Dawson’s Creek – 3, Beverly Hills 90210 – 0.

Abandon stars Katie Holmes – the latest of her Creek counterparts to move past respective film debut lapses and make her mark as a mature actor the big screen (following behind Michael Pitt in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and James Van Der Beek in Rules of Attraction) – and it will probably be a big hit with the teenage crowd. However, the film’s quality is barely adequate at best.

In Abandon, Katie Holmes plays Katie Burke, a college student near the end of the road, working on her thesis and on the verge of a breakdown. The last thing Katie needs is a detective named Wade (Benjamin Bratt) to come into town and ask questions about the vanishing of her egomaniacal ex-boyfriend, Embry (Charlie Hunnam).

The story portrays Katie’s struggle with her past relationships and how they begin to haunt her by playing themselves out again when the investigation into the mystery of Embry’s disappearance brings more than just a few new clues back to life.

Directed by the Oscar-winning scribe of Traffic, Stephen Gaghan, the film relies heavily on pre-conceived notions that take away some of its overall authenticity. Gaghan’s use of the obligatory college-kids-on-ecstasy scene is overly embellished and screens as the equivalent of a fart joke.

Faulty character casting/development is a significant error in this film. Bratt looks and acts as if he wandered off the Baywatch set, which makes the forced romance between him and Holmes at least sexually believable.

The character of Embry, however, is one of Gaghan’s biggest gaffes. His portrait of an otherwise believable artsy rich kid is blown out of proportion when the director cranks up the grandiose lever, which only results in overly melodramatic scenes and an unrealistic, pretentious Abercrombie-laden nightmare. This leads to a disinterest in the character and his situation.

Abandon also suffers from unnecessary plot fraying and an abundant amount of narrative flashbacks that set up an out-of-rhythm, yet suspenseful, finale. The plot was given too little of a spark at the beginning of the film and too much at the end. Gaghan needs to realize that pace is the key in his future directorial endeavors.

The film does make for a semi-captivating watch, and, for all its faults, it even provides the viewer with a bit of mystery.

Holmes delivers a commendable performance in the film and appears to be on her way to fruitful career as an adept actress. She stood way out in the film – too far out.

Abandon could project Holmes into a comfortable role of full-time actress, but she has the safety net that is Dawson’s Creek right below her just in case it doesn’t.

Once an adolescent drama icon, always an adolescent drama icon.

Contact Nick Margiasso at