A love story for superheroes
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Sep 02, 2011
Here's a better title for "Griff the Invisible," a well-meaning but unengaging love story about two 20-something misfits: "Griff the Implausible."
The titular hero of the feature debut from Australian actor-turned-filmmaker Leon Ford is a withdrawn, 28-year-old office clerk (Ryan Kwanten) who moonlights as a costumed crime fighter. Although his exploits seem to take place mostly in his head, he does, in fact, own a Batman-like rubber suit that he dresses up in to go out at night. Whether Griff actually vanquishes any evildoers is another matter. Ford treats Griff's fantasies, for the most part, as if they were real, only sporadically letting us in on the fact that they're not. We see the same cartoonish villains that he does.
It's a bit confusing at first. Is the character of Griff engaging in inappropriate vigilantism, like Rainn Wilson's deranged Crimson Bolt in the similarly themed "Super"? Or is it merely a relatively harmless delusion, a form of innocent cosplay that has been carried just a little bit further than the comic-con? On the one hand, for a comedy, Griff seems a little too psychologically damaged to laugh at. On the other hand, for a drama, his behavior is way too silly to take seriously.
The uncertainty in tone is the least of the film's problems.
Griff's character may be loopy, but his eventual love interest, a young woman named Melody (Maeve Dermody) who believes that she can walk through walls - and who has the bumps on her head to prove it - is just plain bonkers. The central question of the film quickly ceases to be whether these two (literally) crazy kids will wake up and realize that they're meant for each other and becomes: Why aren't they both in a sanitarium?
"You need help," says Griff's protective older brother (Patrick Brammall) at one point, "professional." By the time that assessment comes, however, the movie's misplaced humor feels too awkward to excuse away, like sniggering at the mentally ill. It's a tricky thing to pull off, and I haven't seen it done since 1971's "They Might Be Giants," in which George C. Scott plays a paranoid psychotic who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes, and Joanne Woodward is his psychiatrist.
"Griff the Invisible" is not entirely without charm. The film - whose title is both a reference to Griff's search for an invisibility formula and a metaphor for the character's desire to be seen for who he really is - has flashes of offbeat sweetness.
Its message seems to be: Follow your dreams. And we would follow Griff's and Melody's, if only theirs weren't so disturbing.
Contains some violence and obscenity.