Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:13 pm 
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Virtuoso acting in the service of sleek shlock

The latest star vehicle for Elizabeth Moss is here, and it is a sleek and elegant reimagining of the "Invisible Man" theme that gives Ms. Moss the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions, or at least of expressions. This is also yet another outgrowth of the #MeToo influence. Cecilia (Moss) is the wife of a tech millionaire who has been highly abusive to her. He happens to be an expert on optics - the better to know how to make himself invisible, you see. He will use this skill mainly to torment Cecilia, causing secondary mayhem along the way. Who will win out? Pray it's not the bad guy.

Somehow, for all its suavity and Moss's virtuosity as an actor, this toned-down horror movie and rather pared down version of its theme still seems like a Hollywood B Picture that robs the Invisible Man tale of much of its former fantasy and inspiration, substituting impressive but unmoving technical accomplishment.

It is easy indeed to see why Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe would want to play in Robert Eggers' very classy period horror flick The Lighthouse, a superbly textured and richly acted work. But it's harder to see why Elizabeth Moss found it worthwhile to be in this picture: it seems not the wisest career decision. I guess she had a lot of fun. She gets to do a lot of stuff. It's her show, pretty much.

If you saw the trailer you know much. Adrian plays dead but comes back to torment Cecilia behind a cloak of invisibility. As the film opens, she is escaping from the posh architectural wonder near the Pacific coast that they share. She has drugged him with a heavy dose of Diazepam (formerly Valium) and tricked his surveillance system. Her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) drives her away - but not fast enough, because Adrian comes and smashes the car window - a sign what a monster he is.

Taking refuge, Cecilia spends time with a friend, James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sidney (Storm Reid). What they're like and how they relate to Cecilia are questions left typically vague: the screenplay does not delve into character. Soon, Adrian is declared to have committed suicide, and his brother Tom (Michael Dorman) as executor tells Cecilia she has inherited a large sum of money.

No time to enjoy that, because this is is when the invisible visitations, hauntings, and attacks begin. Adrian's malice includes poisoning James and Sidney and later her sister Emily against Cecilia. In his invisible suit, Adrian can of course creep up and do dire harm on anybody and make it look like Cecilia did it. This leads to tragedy and eventually the protagonist's confinement.

But Cecilia seems to be out and about surprisingly much during the latter part of the film. It was not quite clear to me (perhaps my attention lagged) where she was being confined and when and why she got to go free. Anyway I can assure you that for the last scene, after a lot of impressive night footage at the flashy modern mansion by the Pacific against the roar of waves, Elizabeth Moss appears freshly made up, the emotional ravishment wiped away, a smile breaking out on her face. Fade to black.

The Invisible Man, 124 mins., released in many countries in late Feb. 2020. France, Feb. 26 (AlloCiné press rating 3.5), the US, Feb. 28. Screened for this review at a sleekly refurbished Regal Union Square: its surprising cold new elegance went appropriately with this sleek piece of schlock. Metascore: 71%.

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