| July 14, 2020
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from The Invisible Man when I sat down. The ads told me that the woman at the center, played by the always-compelling and more-interesting-than-your-average movie star, Elisabeth Moss, was not imagining it all. They told me that, eventually, others would suffer the wrath of the man formerly known as visible and that he was a manipulative prick. They told me she would fight back.
Okay. Did they give away too much? Could I predict what was going to happen in every act?
Lights down. Film starts. Our hero is in bed with the man we assume will torture her for the rest of the film. She wakes up. She moves away from him very carefully. I won’t play out the sequence, but what doesn’t happen is the filmmaker showing us much about him. That would be the normal play. We know he will end up being invisible somehow… probably not just in her imagination. But unless we have been misled, he isn’t going to be the center of the film. So we need to know… No, we don’t.
The house is very Sleeping With The Enemy, circa 2020, meaning lots of cameras and keypads and ways for him to control her. But what we don’t get from 1991 is the guy. This is post-feminist movie feminism. Fuck the guy. He is the asshole bad guy. He doesn’t deserve the screen time. All we need to know is how she feels. And I am not being facetious. Another controlling male asshole is not interesting. But she is complex.
We are in a movie that is very much a genre piece, but loaded with the unexpected. This woman isn’t worried about whether she has the towels right. She is 100% clear on the game that she is stuck in and she wants out, even if her trauma from this idiot is still controlling her life.
Let me note, before moving forward, that the film is very nicely shot for a Blumhouse production. It looks like a studio movie. It is clean. The shots are simple and compelling. This director is not trying to prove he can direct.
The other advantage of the way writer-director Leigh Whannell chooses not to set things up is that we are piecing together details through the rest of the first act, as our hero, Cecilia, hides out.
The end of the first act is the element set up in the ads and trailer. Her evil ex has left her a nice chunk of money, suggesting all will be okay. But we know, thanks to the ads, that the invisible asshole is coming to make her life hell.
I won’t spoil anything, but throughout the second act, I was surprised by small turns that were taken. After all, an invisible man with a lot of time and money has all kinds of crazy power. We have no idea what he really wants, learning his motives increasingly as the movie goes along. Whannell doesn’t go creepy-pervy, offering moments of invisible POV, but not the leering stalker kind, even when we are POVing two women asleep in their underwear.
When I read through the Rotten Tomatoes list of reviews, I saw one person wrote, “The Invisible Man lacks for truly terrifying moments.” I don’t know what this person’s standard is, but I wondered to myself if they complained that the rape in Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible wasn’t hard enough to watch.
What makes The Invisible Man work, in spite of being weirdly old-fashioned, aside from its politics, is your relationship with this woman, Cecilia. She is so fragile. She is so full of self-doubt. But she is a fighter. And the people she chooses to be around are all fighters. The idea of being desperate to prove something that no one else can see and not seeming insane is a great one. But smartly, she isn’t just trying to prove she isn’t nuts. She is motivated on a personal level as well. And that keeps it interesting.
This movie also takes its time from start to finish. There are a few bumpy beats. But there are also expected, cliche beats that we know are coming that Whannell simply decides to let pass and an instant, the better idea sneaking up on us right in front of our eyes.
I was impressed. I am pretty sure I will stop and watch it when it shows up on the dial a number of times, wanting to dissect certain sections. It’s not high-level Hitchcock or De Palma or Alex Garland or Verhoeven, to whom the film owes a great debt, although it chooses never to be as joyously perverse and Verhoeven. Ii is also like an inverse Hollow Man, even though the man is still the invisible one. That film loved its gags. That film loved its perversions. This film is about a sane woman who really wants to move past all that after realizing how crazy and dangerous her genius romance is.
There were a bunch of turns that I didn’t anticipate and that is a lot of fun for someone who sees as many movies as I do. There are plenty of movies with great ideas that don’t deliver. There are movies that deliver on their limited ideas. This film has an interesting idea on top of a classic genre idea and gave me something I hadn’t seen before and had fun chasing along with.
"We had a very good plan to put on the SHOW safely. But with an unending number of cases and the national chaos, even the best strategy is threatened by this out-of-control environment. No matter how much many of us wear our masks and observe social distancing, [circumstances have] worsened and the health and safety of you—our passholders, filmmakers, the people of Telluride and its surrounding areas—cannot be compromised. We have been working cooperatively with our fellow fall film festival partners to champion global cinema and its artists. We hope that many of you will seek out and discover the titles we’ve selected for this year’s program at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival or Venice Film Festival. We will announce soon what we have programmed in the hopes that you will experience as we did, the best in film this year. We understand that film festivals and their long-term health are not top of mind today. A safe vaccine, vital medical interventions for those sick and properly enforced health regulations are. However, we do ask that you take this moment to consider a world where gathering around a shared love of culture is no longer possible and what that means for the psychological condition of the world. If the prospect prompts a sense of despair, please advocate and champion the return of our gatherings that provide vital nourishment and oxygen to humanity's soul."
July 14, 2020
"After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we’ve come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year’s Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride."
July 14, 2020
Focus Features Takes U.S. Rights To Schrader's The Card Counter; Universal Pictures International In UK, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Australian, New Zealand China, Japan, South Korea, Latin America and Airlines. Schrader: "The folks at Focus are the best at what they do. Over the years I've been jealous of directors in the Focus fold. Now happily I am one."
| July 14, 2020
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