Saturday, June 6, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man
directed by Leigh Whannell

This movie is a retelling/reboot of the original old Hollywood movie based on the H.G. Wells sci-fi story of the same name. It takes place in modern times.
The biggest difference is that whereas the original movie and story were both parables about an arrogant male scientist fooling around with subjects better left to God and causing suffering to himself and others as a result, this story incarnation makes it clear that the arrogant scientist in question was already a bad man who enjoyed dominating people, especially women.

Invisibility didn't drive him insane or make him worse. It just gave him additional tools to use. This film is primarily an extended lecture on why and how domestic abuse, particularly gaslighting, is a bad thing.
I think that everyone should already know this. I don't mind message films but felt that this one, despite being entertaining, was a little heavy-handed and literal in its approach. The horror is not the invisibility but the fact that the man is controlling, bullying, condescending, dismissive, contemptuous and capable of violence when challenged.
I'm no physicist but if someone or something is invisible then that would seem to indicate to me that the spectrum of light which is visible to humans is either passing through the object completely or being bent around it. So to me that would mean that the person would be blind. Dunno. I will need to look more into it.
The movie opens with a mousy woman, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escaping the home of her rich genius optics engineer boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). I say escape because Adrian is apparently not the sort of man who will take kindly to a Dear John email or meekly accept a "We need to talk" short unpleasant one way discussion.

No, if Adrian plants his flag anywhere then that territory or person belongs to him and that is that. So Cecilia drugs him, takes a few of her things, and hightails it for the road.
Unfortunately she sets off the home alarm. It's a close call but Cecilia is picked up by her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), just as she's almost caught by an enraged Adrian. Emily is one of those smug irritating people often found in horror movies who demand long detailed explanations from the hero/heroine just as the monster has almost caught up. Honey I love you madly but right now shut the **** up and move your a$$!!
Instead of staying with her sister , in part because Adrian knows where Emily lives, Cecilia elects to stay with her childhood friend, police officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge-MC Ren from Straight Outta Compton) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). James and Cecilia are just friends, nothing more.

As Cecilia slowly fitfully recovers from what she describes as a long period of emotional, psychological and physical torment, she learns that Adrian has killed himself. Adrian's body was found by his brother and lawyer Tom (Michael Dorman). Adrian left Cecilia $5 million in his will, to be paid out over a number of years. Well that is good news. Cecilia can help set up Sydney's college fund and stop mooching off James.

Things are looking up until Cecilia starts to experience some strange things. Doors are open or unlocked that she knows she closed or locked. Cecilia faints at a job interview.
Not only did someone remove all of her architectural plans from her portfolio, the doctors later inform her that she was having a bad reaction to an overdose of the same drug she gave to Adrian.
She sees footprints in her room and finds the drug bottle that she dropped during her escape in her bathroom. Cecilia comes to believe that Adrian faked his death and discovered a way to become invisible. She believes that Adrian is still harassing her. She expresses her beliefs in a meeting with Tom and James. Well that doesn't go over too well with either man. And things get worse for Cecilia, much worse.
People who have been unfortunate enough to wind up with abusive spouses or special riders might well recognize a lot of of such tactics in this movie, especially gaslighting and isolation. The special effects are good, not great. The slight Moss is not dispatching grown men with ease. She is deglamorized/desexualized for most of the film's run time. Those narrative choices give this movie a trenchant timely realism. It has a few things to say about how the very dominance and success which attracts some women to some men can often hide some uglier traits.
It wasn't quite what I was looking for but it was powerful. This film doesn't mind setting things up slowly and spending long camera shots seemingly looking at nothing. It might take a while for the viewer, to, like Cecilia, realize that something's amiss. And that's the point.
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