Griff the Invisible
Film review by: Witney Seibold
There is a risk involved with a clear-cut indie romance like Leon Ford’s “Griff the Invisible.” You want your mentally skewed characters to fall in love with each other, yes, but if you make them too sweet, quirky and charming, you may accidentally make your leads insufferable indie archetypes. If you push them too far in the other direction, you run the risk of making a tardsploitation romance (which is not my term), which is also insufferable For the most part, “Griff the Invisible” walks the line well, although it does come close to quirking itself to death in a few sections.
Griff (Ryan Kwanten) is a quiet, nerdy office wonk who lets his co-workers walk all over him, particularly the grown-up playground bully Tim (Patrick Brammall) who still takes pleasure in playfully knocking stuff out of his hands.. He seems practically catatonic in social situations, and it’s a wonder how he manages to live on his own. His brother (Toby Schmitz) is concerned about him, and regularly stops by his apartment. You get the idea, after a short while, that Griff might have been a mental patient once. At night, however, Griff dons a black rubber suit, chats with the police commissioner on a red telephone, and takes to the streets as a superhero, beating up bad guys, and doing secret battle with a wicked weirdo in a top hot.
Also in this story is Melody (Maeve Dermody), a quirky, awkward nerd who still lives at home, and seems to have no other interests beyond particle physics, and who is obsessed with fostering an ability to walk through walls. She bumps her head a lot. Thanks to her big, sleepy blue eyes, she’s one flower garland and Emily Dickinson poem away from being a wood sprite. It doesn’t take much to see that Melody and Griff will foster a quirky attraction to one another, and will indulge one another’s fantasies.
There’s also the question as to whether or not Griff is a real superhero, or if he’s just having quixotic delusions. He puts on invisibility suits (thanks to clever uses of baking soda and lemon juice), and we actually see him turn invisible, but his suits tend top fail at inopportune moments. The questions of Griff’s sanity are not answered until later in the film, but they’re not so shocking.
Griff’s need to turn invisible seems to stem from his need to vanish in a crowd. By being shy and quiet and not talking to anyone, someone explains to him, he’s actually making himself stick out, and has been, hence making himself a victim all this time. The only way to truly vanish to to adopt a modicum of normalcy, and become a vague, boring person that people forget. Essentially, you have to “pass.” For a film about quirky people trying to celebrate their iconoclasticism, this is not a very inspiring message. The film may have been a bit stinger, had the central message been with the love story, and pointed out that sometimes you don’t need someone to share your worldview, but they have to be willing to play along.
But then, I feel, that may have pushed the film a little too far into quirk territory for its own good. As it stands, it’s perfectly sweet, and more romantic than anything. The balance was struck (mostly), and the film is enjoyable. It can, however, be easily pigeonholed into the popular trappings of indie films. It was hard to keep the conventions out of my mind while watching it.