Griff the Invisible
Griff the Invisible 2010
I have decided at some point in the past couple weeks to have a New Year’s Resolution in regards to this site and film watching. I intend to watch every movie on my list that I can find since 2010 before the end of this year. I figured that this is something that is very do-able and doesn’t lock me into a goal that I have to focus on 100% of the year or it won’t get accomplished. At the moment, I have about 30 movies left to watch & review and at the moment I’m starting with 2010 and working my way forward. This movie in particular I’ve heard somewhat mixed things about. It’s occasionally lumped in with three other films that came out around the same time: Special, Super, and Defendor. They all deal with a main character who thinks they are a superhero, but have some mental issue where part of their exploits or inspirations are delusional. Of the four, this one is probably the least comedic, and unfortunately the one that I connected with the least even though it has some good performances, especially from the lead Ryan Kwanten.
Griff is a socially awkward guy working in a cubicle where he generally gets picked on by the office douche. Meanwhile he spends his off time in a fantasy world where he’s a superhero, keeping his neighborhood safe from crime. What makes this film difficult to get a grasp on is that it’s entirely unclear how much of the superhero antics are going on entirely in Griff’s head until the very end. The way the film presents Griff’s fantasy world is that it starts off presenting it as if it were completely real. We get to see Griff in full costume save a woman from a purse snatcher even though she is freaked out by him just as much as the robbers were. Before long, Griff gets inspiration to create an invisibility suit. Mark I is created by soaking a white suit in homemade invisible ink from lemons and baking soda. In his mind and the audience’s eyes, the suit turns completely invisible with that bit of shimmer similar to the effects used in the Predator. But when he sneaks into the office, we find out that the janitor and the security cameras can see him just fine, which is the first hint that his superhero antics are completely in his head.
Where the problem comes in is that the film doesn’t just drop a hint that the superhero elements are only in his mind, but it lays it out pretty clearly. And yet from that point on, the film still plays along with Griff and his fantasy world for the most part. And on top of that, we’re also introduced to the character Melody who is just as quirky and socially awkward as Griff, but instead of pretending to be a superhero, she has a tendency to bump into walls and spout random facts during conversations. But there’s also little hints that Melody also has a similar delusion that she has a superpower and can move through walls. But when we are being shown the progression of Melody testing her powers, we are also being shown the reality behind Griff’s imagination. This ends up leaving things overly muddled and confused. It ends with Melody playing along with Griff’s newest invisibility suit after she manages to fall through his door. This is already at the point where Griff has tossed away all his delusions and the audience is able to see that he can’t really fight when he’s beaten up by his douche co-worker, his high tech bank of monitors are just a pile of junk CRTs taped together. So this potential reveal comes off as very hollow, or a reversion into their fantasy world and it’s all just unclear as to how much was real and how much was fake.
What does work are the performances. Ryan Kwanten does a great job as Griff, both during the moments where he’s playing up the socially awkward moments at his work and with his brother, as well as the pseudo-heroics where he’s playing at being his own superhero. Maeve Dermody as Melody also plays the role well, both when she’s obviously not into dating Griff’s older brother Tim who is completely oblivious, when she’s happily playing along with Griff’s delusions, or when she’s just being a complete oddball with her non sequiturs and general clumsiness. It’s especially surprising that her clumsiness is never played for the slapstick humor, but is actually given some dramatic weight behind it, there’s always concern for her from the other characters at her awkwardness and never just a laugh at a pratfall.
What also is difficult to piece together is the relationship itself, the film seems to ultimately be about Melody and Griff coming together, but it often feels like the relationship is an afterthought in favor of all the other goings on. Not only that, but there is a crucial moment that gets hung up on one of the worst romantic comedy cliches where Griff hears a portion of a conversation between Melody and Tim that makes it seem like Melody thinks Griff is a childish freak, but he doesn’t hear the rest of the conversation where Melody feels like she’s just the same and loves him regardless. Besides their relationship, the rest of the cast feel like pretty hollow shells of characters. There’s the office douche who’s been mentioned already. There’s the sympathetic boss who doesn’t really have much in the way of dialogue. All he does is tell Griff to try and act more normal, then he fires him when he is caught on tape sneaking into the office to prank office douche. The rest of the office are just random office women who only get a line or two. There’s also the police officer who has been tracking down Griff as the neighborhood views him as a stalker and potential vigilante and just gets the chance to play bad cop so that Tim can find out that Griff is still doing his superhero thing. Even Tim himself doesn’t have much in the way of personality, in fact he has such a shallow personality that Griff ends up trying to imitate him near the end of the film in an effort to be more normal. And all that really entails is the fact that Tim met Melody at a Chinese restaurant where their bills got swapped, he got her single dinner bill while she almost got stuck with his office banquet bill. In fact, during the date scenes between Tim and Melody, that’s pretty much the only thing between them that’s ever brought up, and it’s brought up about three times. It’s a shame that I didn’t connect with this film as much as I have other indie films. This isn’t a case of something like the Amazing Bulk or Avengers Grimm where it just took a lackluster idea and ran with it in the cheapest way possible. There is the seed of a good film here, and I will say that I started getting sucked into it near the end, but it just wasn’t enough for me. It’s currently free to watch on Hulu if you’re in the US. While I didn’t fall for it, others may find it charming. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.