May 31, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 63°F


‘True Blood’ star shines in heroic story

Leon Ford’s feature-length debut, “Griff the Invisible,” is a late entry to the emerging sub-genre of “superheroes in the real world” movies, but still manages to show its superiority.

Ryan Kwanten of “True Blood,” HBO’s hit vampire drama, plays Griff, an introverted office worker mercilessly bullied by his co-worker Tony (Toby Schmitz) by day, but by night dreams of becoming a fearless, costumed crusader. Griff wants the ability to become invisible more than anything and works to make it a reality. He finds somewhat of a kindred spirit in Melody (Maeve Dermody), a self-described experimentalist obsessed with phasing through walls and getting Griff to like her. As they take comfort in each other’s misanthropy and eccentricities, a romance blossoms as the two deal with reality’s increasing infraction on their shared fantasy.

In “Griff,” traditional superpowers show the characters’ conflicts with the world around them, not just nerdy personal obsessions. Melody wants to pass through walls and Griff wants to blend into them. Together, they find that they can, at least virtually, disappear from the world that does not understand them. Their superpowers are not tools for saving the world, but a means of escaping it.

What distinguishes Ford’s film from Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” or James Gunn’s “Super” is that “Griff” is a study in personal escapism and is genuinely interested in the psychology of the man behind the mask. Ford’s script is not directed at appeasing comic book nerds looking forward to allusions to “Batman” or to yet another underdog taking power into his or her own hands. “Griff” accepts the implicit insanity of the superhero genre and decides not to exploit its characters like they’re sideshow freaks.

Instead of the dynamic and morbid violence many films inspired by comic book heroes are prone to, Ford presents only Kwanten and Dermody’s low-key performances. This choice of restraint allows “Griff” to be alternatively quirky and downbeat without feeling jarring. The film is often silent and focused on following two outsiders probing each other’s trust and experimenting with new ways to “fight crime”
rather than on offering constant dialogue or loud action scenes.

At its core, “Griff” is a film about two unbalanced individuals enabling each other’s delusions. Kwanten and Dermody’s chemistry as a couple is convincing, and Griff is worthy of empathy as a victim of the world’s pressure. But with the film’s earnestness about the dark issues it faces, audiences may find an uncomfortable conflict between actions that are eccentric and characters that seem absolutely mad. Ford’s script tries to address this, but does so too late so it rushes the last act. The film attempts to resolve and address so much in such little time that, at only 90 minutes, the story line  seems unresolved.

Overall, “Griff” is satisfactorily paced. The majority of the movie is romantic without being recycled, quirky without feeling pandering and funny without seeming like the audience is provoked to laugh at a couple of weirdos who deserve each other.

“Griff the Invisible” was written and directed by Leon Ford.