Despite the star presence of a post-Angels Cameron Diaz, this ponderous adaptation of Jennifer Egan's bestseller is so low-key that it looks misplaced on the big screen. Through comparing sisters Phoebe (Jordana Brewster) and Faith (Diaz), writer-director Adam Brooks' attempts to portray the difference between the candy-dipped revolution of the '60s and the tamed experimentation of the '70s. And it hardly makes for riveting viewing.
These girls may both be doing the all-American snap-and-you'll-miss-it European self-discovery trip, but Brooks constantly hammers home the point that this is one case where history is not simply repeating itself. The differences are clumsily signposted though, with the blonde/brunette, crazy/sane casting of the leads grating almost as much as the oh-so-sincere voice-over.
As a result, the characters become little more than stereotypes. Diaz and Christopher Eccleston admittedly do their best to vitalise some extremely cardboard parts, but Brewster fails to infuse the more complex Phoebe with anything close to the searching vigour she deserves. Throughout, questions go unanswered and events go unexplained, and as the narrative jumps around the globe, we're left with little more than a sense of dislocation and disbelief.
It's not that the film doesn't look pretty - it does, but in a rather blurry, hungover way, with the lovingly shot European settings all lingering in frame a little too long. The intention is obviously to imbue everything with a sensation of wide-eyed wonder, but Brooks' try-hard direction, which relies too much on fuzzy flashbacks and soft-focus, strikes far too many false notes. It's all a little too naïve and fake, leaving The Invisible Circus as little more than a hotchpotch of dial-a-moods. The end result suffers from sentimentality, reeks of historical tourism and fails to convey the subtlety of Egan's source novel.