By Brian Lafferty
August 25, 2011 (San Diego) – In my nearly two years as a film critic I’ve learned a lot about the three current Landmark Theatres in San Diego. There’s the Landmark Hillcrest and the Landmark La Jolla Village. The third is San Diego’s only remaining continuously operating single-screen movie theater, the Ken Cinema in Kensington. I soon began to draw a distinction between films shown at the former two and the latter.
Ken Cinema films are geared towards niche crowds. These are films that can play for a week and do just fine as opposed to films at the Hillcrest and La Jolla Village, which tend to be a little more mainstream. Films playing at the Ken are so distinctive that Landmark Theatres patrons can look at it and say, “That’s a Ken Cinema film.” Movies like Enter the Void and A Somewhat Gentle Man are “Ken Cinema Films.”
Why do I bring this up in this particular review? Because Griff the Invisible is a superhero film that fits nicely into the Ken Cinema mold. It scores very high on the Quirk-O-Meter. It’s a refreshing take on the superhero genre, which has been increasingly popular the last few years.
Ryan Kwanten – who plays the hunky Jason Stackhouse in HBO’s True Blood – is Griff. He’s a very meek office worker who is constantly bullied by a colleague. At night, he’s a fearless vigilante superhero. Lacking a superpower, he tries to design an outfit that makes him invisible, with mostly poor results. He is attracted to Melody (Maeve Dermody), his brother’s girlfriend who has problems of her own.
The funniest moments are of the “gotcha” kind. They’re the type of moments where you think something is happening but then it turns out it really didn’t. In one scene, his bully co-worker teases Griff. It’s the last bit of straw for Griff. He goes nuts, jumps over several office cubicles, tackles him, assaults him, and throws hot coffee in his face before pushing him up face first into the ceiling.
Then it turns out it was all a fantasy.
This scene, and several similar scenes sprinkled throughout, is funny in two parts. I laughed during the attack because it was totally unexpected and completely out of character for Griff. He also doesn’t pull any punches (both literally and figuratively speaking). Then, when it suddenly cuts back to the new, mild-mannered Griff, it’s another laugh.
The only thing I wish there was more of is action. Whenever there is action, there isn't enough of it to qualify as an action sequence. The romance between Griff and Melody, the film’s perpetual ultra-quirkiness, as well as the existential character study are superbly written and acted, but I felt the movie would have been a little bit more complete if there was an action sequence or two.
Kwanten plays his role like he has Aspergers Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. He’s extremely sensitive to people touching him. He almost never makes eye contact. He speaks softly and is extremely shy. He doesn’t smile. As someone on the Spectrum, most of the time I felt like I was looking in the mirror. I could feel for him.
Griff the Invisible opens Friday at the Landmark Ken Cinema.
An Indomina Releasing release. Director: Leon Ford. Screenplay: Leon Ford. Original Music: Sep Caton, Lee Devaney, and Larissa Rate. Cinematography: Simon Chapman. Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Patrick Brammall, Toby Schmitz, Marshall Napier, and Heather Mitchell. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.