Love At First Sight: A Review of ‘The Invisible Man’
By earnestly putting a #MeToo gaslighting slant on the proceedings, ‘The Invisible Man’ becomes an interesting remake, with something fresh and new to present
Watching the first five minutes of The Invisible Man, you may be forgiven for wondering if lead actress Elizabeth Moss somehow wandered onto the movie set by mistake. For Moss is a consummate actress, better known as the unofficial Queen of peak TV, having played major roles in Mad Men, then The Handmaid’s Tale. She’s also a favorite of indie films and European arthouse films—such as The Square and Queen of Earth. So what is she doing in a Universal/Blumhouse Dark Universe classic monster remake? Well, just as Toni Collette was recruited to add acting prowess and credibility to Hereditary, Moss is here to give The Invisible Man, a remake of the H.G. Wells novel and 1933 film, a veneer of gravitas. And kudos to director/writer Leigh Whannell for gifting this remake with a feminist, #MeToo slant, and making the film relevant in a manner that any outright remake would not have achieved. If memory serves me right, the original Dark Universe reboot concept had Johnny Depp earmarked to play the title role—but all that was shelved when their first Dark Universe reboot, The Mummy, failed dismally.
So instead of concentrating on the title character, Whannell (known initially for his Insidious screenplays, and he directed Upgrade) turns the spotlight on the one victimized by the Invisible Man—in this case, Cecilia Kass (Moss), trapped in an abusive, controlling relationship with Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who’s a brilliant and wealthy scientist twist specializing in optics. And naturally, the being a genius in optics is our clue to how invisibility will figure in our revamped storyline. It’s not giving much of the plot away to say that Cecilia escapes from the clutches of Adrian, is paranoid he’ll get her back, and is then surprised to learn he committed suicide and left her a ton of money. What follows is a nail-biting, extended episode of gaslighting. Is Adrian still alive, faked his death, and stalking Cecilia under a cloak of invisibility? Everyone questions her sanity; and this section of the film makes great use of Whannell lingering on negative space, making us look for signs of this invisible figure.
The glass house on a San Francisco suburb cliff owned by Adrian is ultra-modern, sleek, and filled with cutting edge gadgetry. It takes the place of the gothic mansion that was such a staple of the old classic monster films—the eerie house on a hill, where nothing good happens. Cecilia’s childhood friend, James (Aldis Hodge) is a police detective; and living with James and his teenage daughter is Cecilia’s refuge when escaping from the clutches of Adrian. James becomes the voice of reason, the one who’s with the audience in judging whether Cecilia is just super paranoid, or has reason to question the presumed suicide of Adrian. Whether struggling or fighting with thin air, or showing desperation over the fact that no one is believing her; Elizabeth Moss is magnetic and gives this film with a thin storyline it’s much-needed impact. It gets genuinely creepy and scary, and we can give credit to Moss for making this happen. Most everyone else in the cast are just taking their cues from her. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing; or if observant, anticipating when something foreshadowed will occur. It’s a smart screenplay, elevating this classic monster concept to something more suspenseful and ‘of today’.
Images from Universal Pictures