- David S. Goyer
- Justin Chatwin, Margarita Levieva, Marcia Gay Harden
- 97 min.
- Release Date
The Invisible. I lost patience with this film after the first fifteen minutes, as the audience is subjected to melodramatic high school kids taking themselves way too seriously. Skulking about with pensive expressions, every character should be on anti-depressants. Unlike 2006’s Brick, which fruitfully applies severe film noir story elements to a high school setting, the students in The Invisible come in somewhere between brooding Ingmar Berman characters and banal soap opera stereotypes—ineffectively attempting to elevate teen angst, when really all the characters need is a trip to Six Flags on Prozac.
Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin), the richboy protagonist whose life changed years ago when his father died, acts like he’s seen it all. He believes his mother cares only about outward appearances, thus explaining why she’s gone cold since becoming a widow. Nick is what his mother repeatedly calls “bright”; writing other students’ papers for cash, he’s at risk of throwing his life away. His dream resides in the writer’s program at a prestigious London college, but his mother refuses to let him go. He bought a plane ticket anyway, and because he has enough credits to graduate, he plans to catch a flight the next day. These first scenes with Nick feel like something out of Zack Braff’s Garden State …meaning not funny and laced with a heightened and deliberate effort to be “moving”.
Fellow student Annie comes from a similarly-yet-less-fortunate broken home; her mother dead, she lives with her down-and-out dad, his trashy girlfriend, and her little brother. A car thief along with her tattooed ex-con boyfriend Marcus, Annie shares Nick’s anger at the world, resorting to smash and grab jobs to discharge her frustrations. When she goes too far and breaks into a jewelry store, her boyfriend turns her in, trying to protect himself from going back to jail.
After being arrested, Annie goes haywire, seeking out whoever turned her in. With reason to suspect Nick’s friend Pete, she corners him with some of her goons. Pete, assuming Nick is leaving for London in a few hours, saves his own skin and claims that Nick turned her in. Why, you might ask, doesn’t Pete just tell the truth and say he doesn’t know anything about it? This is just one of the absurd mechanisms present in The Invisible to keep the plot going. Annie and her nameless co-hoodlums attack Nick, accidentally killing him (or so they think), and then dump his body into the sewer under a manhole in the middle of a forest. (By the way, are there sewer accesses in the woods now?)
Quickly turning into Ghost, the movie turns when Nick awakes only to realize no one can see him. He’s actually not dead, just floating midpoint between life and death before his body dies. If he can save his body, he won’t die. He learns all of this after showing up to class where everyone talks about his bad poetry reading from the day before as if he wasn’t there, only he isn’t there (dun-dun-DUN!). Grabbing a textbook, he throws it into a shelf. The shelf collapses and the camera shifts to Nick, who has a surprised look on his face; when the camera moves back to the shelf, it looks as though nothing has happened. We see endless versions of this same sequence over and over and over again in different situations—Nick disturbs something, cut to his face, cut back to that same something and it’s all untouched.
Nick knows Annie attempted to kill him, just not why. We’re shown every event leading up to the attack, and so you might think the screenplay would let the audience’s knowledge over the film’s characters develop into dramatic irony, but you’d be wrong. The film offers neither mystery nor suspense to captivate us. And Nick’s character is so poorly written that we could care less about his “emotional journey” in death, so The Invisible isn’t really dramatic or scary. It’s trying desperately to make a statement about children forgotten by their parents by using Nick’s state in limbo as a metaphor, only the metaphor is so clumsily described that the message is lost.
The film uses the now tired gimmick from The Sixth Sense (advertisements announce “from the producers of The Sixth Sense,” aiming for ghost-story loving crowds), showing repeated scenes where Nick waves his hand in front of people’s faces and shouts in their ears without getting a reaction. But he also bumps into people on a crowded street, so whether he’s a ghost or a spirit or who-knows-what, I can’t say. The supernatural elements being the only thing this film has going for it, they’re treated unevenly and make little sense. Consequently, any signified meaning attached to Nick’s supernatural condition becomes just as confused.
It’s actually sort of sad and pathetic to see such an agonizingly off self-important film like this, even more so since it jumps all over the place without any idea of where it wants to go. The Invisible so urgently wants to attain something meaningful—especially in its last act where Nick randomly starts to fall for Annie. Resolving everything in the finale without really resolving anything, when the end credits begin to roll, we’re left wondering what the hell just happened and why everyone was so excessively emotional about it.