Griff the Invisible,
directed by Leon Ford
(Paramount, 2010)

"You look up and see the stars, you see infinity. You look through a microscope, you see infinity. It's the same. And there we are, in between, balanced right on the beam. It's not religion. It's gymnastics, really."

I would have given Griff the Invisible a zillion stars, even if every other part of the movie was awful, just for that quote alone. Fortunately, Griff is able to stand on its own, somewhat shaky legs well enough, if not perfectly.

Griff (True Blood's Ryan Kwanten) is a meek, mild, rather troubled customs inspector by day and a superhero at night. Sort of. If superpowers are something you can invent through sheer belief, then, yes, Griff is a hero. If you steer by actual reality, Griff is probably less of a hero and more of a loner who walks a delicate line between eccentricity and sanity. There's no question that his imagination is powered by a highly determined sense of right and wrong, but there is some question as to whether or not he's separating from reality in a way that could get him hurt or even killed.

Without giving too much away, it becomes clear halfway through the film that a lot of what Griff experiences as his alter ego is not, shall we say, grounded in the truth as most of us know it. But that's just the halfway-mark revelation. The actual turning point is Griff's meeting with a beautiful young scientist (Maeve Dermody) of equal determination and belief, herself locked in what she calls a bubble that no one but Griff can understand. She sees in him a soulmate who doesn't so much stabilize her as give her imagination the sort of wings it needs to provide her with the clarity of rising above the noisy froth of a very limiting and dispiriting society, as opposed to having to pander to its limiting conventions.

Both Dermody and Kwanten give the movie that special something by being so invested in their characters that it moves the film from quirky to touching, even important. There is humor and poignancy in equal amounts. Dermody is no Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is downright strange, in a fey, otherworldly sort of way. She fits right in a film that is such a delicate mixture of self-reference, artifice and realism that it manages, through carefully blending all these elements and asking the right questions in the right places, to stand head and shoulders above any superhero movie I've ever seen. It drives home the point that being a social outcast is the fate of the hero, but it doesn't have to be a curse. Normality and conformity, quite frankly, aren't all they're cracked up to be, and the sweet, loving "heroes in the real world" theme of the movie makes it very clear that curious and interesting are sometimes better. In fact, Griff takes that theme to levels I've never seen in any other superhero film, a feat that moves the story past its very few, very forgivable flaws (considering that this was made by a first-time director). This is not a plot-driven movie, it's a character-driven movie, and more to the point it's about the kinks in the characters' minds and personalities. This time around, it's the superhero outfit that's the real disguise.

Griff the Invisible is truly an amazing little gem of a movie that practically breathes magical realism, is blessed with two of the most compelling, quirky characters whose chemistry is very believable, creating a story that is easy to get into, easier to love and worth the emotional investment. The real villain we battle every day is not an alter-ego supervillain; rather, it's soul-deadening complacency.

This is definitely the most interesting variation on superhero movies that's yet been made. It's not every day that you run across a self-aware parody that uplifts a genre by breaking all the rules, while being a romance and an action movie and a smart little independent film besides, all the while being so damn sweet you can't help but smile. Like the movie's subtitle states: The greatest superpower is love.

review by
Mary Harvey

15 December 2012

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