Everyone’s familiar with the glut of comic book superhero films filling the multiplexes for better or worse, but the genre has a little bastard brother that continues to fly beneath the radar. This sub-genre shares a common theme in its placement of real people in the real world who only believe that they’re superheroes. Special with Michael Rapaport, Defendor with Woody Harrelson, and Super with Rainn Wilson are just a few examples, and one of the many elements they’ve shared is their American origin. But now Australia has found its own make believe superhero.
And his name is Griff.
A young man in a bathrobe stands watch over the city streets with the aid of a telescope and a high tech wall of monitors. He’s watching for criminals, scoundrels, and other evil doers in need of a good beat down and innocent civilians in need of saving. Say hello to Griff (Ryan Kwanten)… superhero by night, shy, quiet, bullied oddball by day. And his story is one of wonder, romance, and (unfortunately) a slight missed opportunity.
“Did you know that forty percent of people don’t believe statistics when they read them?”
While Griff’s nights are filled with crime fighting, his days are a minefield of social interactions that leave him bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. An office bully named Tony (Toby Schmitz) makes his days a living hell, and his brother Tim (Patrick Brammall) acts as a constant reminder that Griff’s needed protection from those stronger than him his entire life. But it’s not all bad… a new woman enters his life who’s just as quirky and unique as he is.
Melody (Maeve Dermody) believes she can walk through walls. If she could just time it right the space between her atoms and the wall’s would align perfectly and she’d fall right through. Well, that’s her theory anyway. The two of them are goofy, imaginative, and a little bit off, and their arrival into each others life is a revelation to them both. But they have bigger obstacles to overcome than just his secret identity… she’s dating Griff’s brother.
The remainder of the film explores Griff’s secret identity and his efforts to balance his nocturnal adventures with his every day life, but the real heart of the film is the budding relationship he’s building with Melody. That’s a good thing for many reasons not the least of which is that the superhero plot never quite gels into anything substantial. Griff, at times, appears to be a truly unstable individual, but the movie never matches that with heavy drama. It touches on ideas of loneliness, fear, and of fitting in with society, but it never quite makes those concerns feel very serious.
Still, the love story carries viewers through to the end and rewards along the way. Kwanten’s performance displays a variation on the simple minded innocent he plays on HBO’s True Blood, sans sex drive and ripped abs, and it’s easy to believe what he believes at times. Equally spirited and loony (in a good way) is Dermody who makes for one very sweet geek indeed. The film’s soundtrack by Kids At Risk plays just as important a role and is a solid mix of songs both heartfelt and plucky.
Griff the Invisible is a sweet little Australian nugget that charms in its simplicity. The film’s pull is strong enough that each time the wonder and magic in Griff’s world is knocked flat on its ass the writing and performances encourage viewers to stay optimistic and hopeful. It’s enough to make you believe that maybe this time, maybe this once, the magic Griff sees around him will be revealed to be true.
The Upside: Ryan Kwanten is convincing as both capable hero and mentally deficient innocent; light and amusing mix of reality and magic; Kids At Risk soundtrack is solid
The Downside: Does little new with what’s become a fairly common plot; narrative feels lightweight at times
Griff the Invisible opens in limited theatrical release starting August 19th.