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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Invisible

Once in a while I see the advance p.r. materials for movies long before they are released and I skim over the stuff and promptly forget everything by the time the movie finally opens or I just remember a few bits and pieces from the promo packet and try to play connect the dots in my head. All I remembered about The Invisible was the title, that the material inside had the words “Gay” and “dead” several times, and pictures of a not-quite-handsome young man in the lead. Naturally, from these clues, I deduced the obvious, that this must then be a bio-pic about Clay Aiken, since “Invisible” was the title of his one hit record and “dead” pretty much describes his career other than on the State fair circuit these days. The “Gay” part I think the tabloids and Rosie O’Donnell have seen to making public whether he wanted it so or not. I’m sure he is forever grateful to Rosie for blabbing away perhaps a bit too much about him on “The View” (or as my perfect husband calls it, “The Phew”) after her dust-up with Kelly Ripa last Fall.

Well, I settled into my seat on Friday at the
Essex Cinemas and have to admit that I was initially disappointed when the movie started with a panoramic view of Vancouver B.C., which I recognized right away and knew was never going to pass for Aiken’s native Raleigh, North Carolina. Okay, so The Invisible was going to be something else entirely. I could deal. I had fresh, fluffy popcorn with that tasty Kettle Corn topping the theater offers (yummy) and my cup-holder runneth over with Diet Pepsi. Bring it on.

As it turned out
The Invisible was quite an interesting little movie that has nothing to do with "American Idol" or (allegedly) gay singers. Instead, it is the tale of a soon-to-be-graduating from high school student who is killed (sort of) by a punk and her gang and how he hovers as a spirit between life and death where no one can see or hear him yet he is neither completely dead nor really alive. Sort of like Karl Rove’s conscience, only younger and with better fashion sense.

Here we have Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin; War of the Worlds), the spoiled and still unhappy son of ice queen Diane (Marcia Gay [oh that’s where I saw that word] Harden; The Dead Girl), a rich widow who seems incapable of spontaneous thought yet alone smiling. It’s no wonder that Nick has secretly been selling term papers all year to the less academically gifted students in order to stash away enough cash to escape Mama’s grasp and fly off to a writer’s program in London where his mother does not want him to go. After all, who else would she have to stay at home and bore to death as she no doubt did Nick’s father?

While we are to believe that Nick is the shining knight of his high school, it makes little sense that he would be attending a lowly public school considering his supposed status as silver spoon carrying potential Bush-twins dating Ivy League material. Yet for plot purposes, if nothing else, Nick does indeed share the
same turf as Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva; tv’s “Vanished”), the bad-assed projects-living, no-good, hanging-on-by-a-thread, prison-in-her-future, tortured soul just so they can cross paths enough times to set them up for the inevitable tragedy that ends with Annie giving the orders to have Nick iced. That’s thanks to his best friend Pete (Chris Marquette;
The Education of Charlie Banks ), who thinks he is saving his own skin by naming Nick as the guy Annie is searching to kill just to get himself off the hook since he is certain that Nick has already left for England by that time. Oops! What’s that saying about “With friends like these…?”

The fascinating story that evolves after Pete’s mistake is not so much the time-sensitive will-they or won’t-they find the body and rescue Nick in time to save him before he fades into the afterlife forever. Nick himself isn’t even all that interesting as a character. I mean, geez, if you think about it, he is awfully dull. He writes yawn-inducing BAD poetry. His bedroom is abysmal. Nothing like any teenage boy I know would ever want to live in. It looks more like something a 90-year old nun might enjoy at the convent...if it was 1974. And he apparently has no friends except Pete, who is basically a money-dependent weenie and looks like he’s flunked out maybe three or four times because he’s got to be at least in his early 20s. It makes no sense that Nick is described as a Big Man On Campus, rich, cool, smart, etc., when he has no girlfriend (or boyfriend for that matter), and his disappearance hardly raises an eyebrow at school. There are no weepy assemblies, no candlelight vigils, and no chicks weeping uncontrollably at his mother’s knee like Sanjaya just got kicked off of Idol. And we don’t even get a glimpse of Nick doing what any other normal teenage boy would do if they found themselves suddenly a ghost at their own high school. What 17-year-old boy, dead or not, wouldn’t take a stroll through the girls’ locker room at least once after cheerleading practice? No, Nick is as deadly dull dead as he apparently must have been alive.

Annie, on the other hand, is really who the movie is all about because this is the old bait-and-switch.
The Invisible is about the character who is under our noses all along but who we aren’t supposed to be noticing. You see, she’s “invisible” by not being The Invisible, if you get the idea. Her story is the one to watch. She is the one we are really meant to care about, and hers is a story of redemption. What she did was a bad, bad thing, and it is her journey in the following 90 minutes or so that tells the tale of a young woman who does have a conscience and a heart, despite her gruff exterior and her angry lashing out at everybody around her except her little brother Victor (Alex Ferris; cable’s “The L Word”) that proves she is a character worth caring about. In many ways, she is the funhouse mirror reflection of Diane. She has all of the extended, emotional, young, raw energy Diane must have once experienced before it was bundled up and tucked away into a hole tighter than Rush Limbaugh’s anus.

The biggest gripe I had with The Invisible was with its occasional pandering to the "O.C." crowd by pausing for no discernible reason to insert meaningless music video moments into the movie. In these instances, the film’s action grinds to a completely unnecessary halt and the music pretty much sucks royally, just sounding dully like any the elevator music of 2035 ~ unintelligible, unimaginative, and insignificant. Other than these bits, which feel forced ~ padded or crammed in as a last thought to make the movie longer ~ the film moves along nicely. It’s too bad that director David S. Goyer (Blade: Trinity) didn’t spend a bit more time focusing on making us care about Nick, the person, or getting us to appreciate the friendship between Nick and Pete, which never rings true. Heck, I’d even buy it if Nick just told us he liked Pete because he reminded him of the nerdy actor Chris Marquette from "Joan of Arcadia". Nick is the sort of guy who would have stayed home on Friday nights to watch that instead of date. It would even explain his lack of a social life and friends mourning him later on.

As for Marcia Gay Harden… well, what is it about these women who win Oscars and then disappear into dud roles with nowhere to go? Her Diane Powell has ‘THAT MOMENT’ that actresses want, but it is so little to wait around for and has such little impact on the movie as a whole that it diminishes her big scene because we’ve been given too little of her or Nick to like beforehand to care about her eventual letting loose with her grief over his “death” now. I found myself feeling less sympathetic for her than I’m sure Harden had hoped. Rather, because Diane had been portrayed as such as frigid and unmovable object before this point it seemed (to me anyway) that her meltdown was less about the loss of her son than the horror of her now being with no one left to love her. It was all about her and not about him. Selfish cow.

As you can see,
The Invisible is a bit different than what it is packaged as being. This is not your teen horror’ things-that-go-bump-in-the-dark’ spookfest that is how Buena Vista Pictures has been advertising it. It is by far more about learning to accept responsibility for what you’ve done and doing the right thing before it is too late, which is what Annie’s journey is all about. But marketing a movie that way probably wouldn’t fill seats any better than a movie about Clay Aiken’s childhood would unless Clay beat the crap out of someone and dumped them down a drainpipe, of course, but I doubt that happened.

The Invisible will probably disappear quickly and silently from the Essex Cinemas without much of a following, yet it is better than its marketing. It really does ask some interesting questions that parents and teens might want to explore together if families ever go to the movies together. Hey, this might just be a good opportunity to give it a try.


slumming said...


You deduced the obvious? Right. (snicker)

Suggestion: Put down the National Enquirer, lay off daytime television and develop some critical thinking skills.

Oh, and maybe do a little R-E-S-E-A-R-C-H.

You deduced. Still LOL.

Clamzilla (the clammy critic formerly known as Grace Noble) said...

I also deduce that slumming must not realize that this is a humor column, not a treatise on research techniques.

Slumming said...

I am deducing that you are desperate for hits.