The Cultural Relevance of The Invisible Man
The Cultural Relevance of The Invisible Man - because beneath this crazy thriller there might be a message we could all learn from.
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The Cultural Relevance of The Invisible Man. Today we are talking about a superhero movie! Hahahah. Anyone that has been on this blog more than once knows, I abhor superhero movies. Sort of. Well, superhero movies that lack plot, superhero movies that lack originality, superhero movies that can’t be bothered to make us care about the characters. But the other day I found a “super hero” movie I loved entitled I Am Not Okay With This. And I fell for it mainly because it was story of a geeky girl in high school just trying to survive. So, it’s a pretty broad brush of me to say I hate all superhero movies. And today we have another one*. 

Sometimes you come across a movie that seems so thoroughly connected to the zeitgeist of our times that it’s almost as if the movie is literally jacked into the power grid of the times. OK, Taylor, that is the true height of hyperbole. I mean, do you really think that we are going to let you get away with that opening sentence? This is the move Invisible Man after all. A mindless popcorn movie. But no! I’m telling you, this movie perfectly flips the script that Hollywood has been playing for over a hundred years. Which is the story of the on edge wife, who given the slightest nudge, tumbles into a deeper and deeper crash through the chaos of her mind. Ultimately, she kills everyone she knows, or just gets locked up, as her insanity spirals even further out of control. But this movie turns that tired motif on its head. 

Now – I highly, highly recommend you don’t watch this trailer. Like, even a little bit. (One of the nice things about this trailer is that there are a number of mis-directions throughout this thing. There are a number of scenes that don’t even happen. And I personally think that movies today should actually utilize their trailers in order to misdirect the audience as much as possible. Straight out lie to us. I’m fine with that. It’s better than spoiling the movie for us.) But if you have no idea what this movie is about, and are on the verge of totally skipping it – give the trailer a try. 

Alright, so what is so zeitgeisty about that? Sorry – you have to watch the movie first. Then…we’ll walk through the movie, then, and only then, will we get to that bit. 

Invisible Man Walkthrough Explanation

I think this movie should be titled and subtitled: “The Invisible Man – still mansplaining even while invisible!!”

The movie opens with Cecilia Kass (played by the ever brilliant Elizabeth Moss. Who you have GOT to know from The One I Love, and Handmaid’s Tale) slipping quietly, and urgently, out of bed. She is hurrying as she tries to flee her controlling relationship with her abusive husband, Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen from The Haunting of Hill House). And her urgency, and utter desperation don’t leave her face over the next 2 plus hours. Escaping from her expensive home, Cecilia is picked up by her sister Emily, just as Adrian nearly catches her. Dropping a bottle of Diazepam, which she used to drug her husband…which Adrian decided to keep for memories sake, I’m sure.

Having narrowly avoided being caught by Adrian, Cecilia needs to hide, lay low, until she can come up with a better plan. So, Cecilia crashes at a childhood friend’s house. James, a cop, and his daughter Sydney take super great care of the traumatized Cecilia. They basically just fold her into their family, as James tries to rehabilitate Cecilia as best he can. (For the record, if you are keeping score, James is our prototypical paragon of male virtue in this film. The rest of the males in this film are perpetuating the status quo of female fragility/passivity, and inferiority. Guys, we are lucky we got one in this film. Just saying.)

The Cultural Relevance of The Invisible Man explained and dissected.

But, two weeks later, Adrian commits suicide. Wait, WHAT? His fragile existence cracked minus the backbone that was Cecilia? He couldn’t live without her? Wow. That was a short movie. Or something. Good news is, Adrian left her Five Million dollars in his will, which was executed by Adrian’s brother Tom. Regardless, this is Cecilia’s chance to move on – to start anew. But Cecilia starts experiencing truly strange supernatural episodes. (Thankfully the title of the film universally tipped us all off simultaneously.) When she heads out to a job interview, and finds her drafting examples missing, she passes out right there on the spot. Could be the fright of knowing someone stole something she was certain was there. Or it could have been the large dose of Diazepam in her bloodstream. Huh. That’s weird. And when she discovers the exact same bottle of Diazepam she drugged her husband with in her bathroom, she knows she’s in some serious hot water.

Pause a second. One of the really brilliant moves this movie throws is that Leigh Whannell (writer & director of Upgrade), the writer/director, didn’t take it in the normal Insane-Cecilia-Screenplay route. “Is Cecilia insane?!? I think she might be! These things literally cannot be happening to her. She’s making them all up!” Come on, that is how these movies normally go. And then, the reveal is that she isn’t insane, her husband is actually invisible! WAIT WHAT? HE’S INVISIBLE?!? That is CRAZY. Sorry Cecilia for ever doubting you!! Instead we are bought in to Cecilia’s plight from day one. We realize exactly what is happening, and through that lens we see something entirely new, something entirely different this time around.

Pontifications aside, we have a movie to summarize dangit! So where was I? Oh, right, Cecilia goes with James to meet Tom, Adrian’s brother (and OBVIOUS quintessential sleaze bag), and she tells Tom that Adrian is still alive, and utilizing his optics expertise to torment her even in “death.” But Tom makes Cecilia seem insane – which has never happened before in the history of man, so this is shocking – and James, unclear on what to do, gets Cecilia out of there. Cecilia, turning to her sister Emily, gets totally backhanded and dissed at the door. Why? Well, because her forgetful little sister sent her a hateful email saying she never wants to see her again. Well, it isn’t too shocking that Emily’s response was a napalming from here to Ho Chi Minh City. Then, when James’ daughter Sydney shows her the only love from anyone else around her, she is crushed with an invisible right hook out of the blue. Well, who did it? Couldn’t be an invisible man, because that would be insane, so obviously Cecilia must have done it. 

If you notice, Adrian is systematically decimating every connection, lifeline, or relationship that Cecilia has in her life. Huh, what does that sound like to you? Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what abusers do. That is how pond scum like Adrian controls women like Cecilia. It’s heart-crushingly sad if you ask me. But due to the fact that women who are raped, or abused, are systematically disbelieved, it’s no wonder that these women find themselves out on a limb all by themselves. It’s utterly heartbreaking really. 

Well, Cecilia is now full-on & full-tilt in fight back mode. Eventually she discovers Adrian’s cell phone in the attic, and ends up fighting for her life. I have to say, there was a segment here that really popped me out of the film to say, wait, what? It was when Cecilia hit Adrian with the paint to the face. And he runs to the kitchen sink to wash it off…right? And he was able to remove the paint from his suit in 30 seconds? What? Is the thing also made of Teflon? Has to be. Nothing else makes any sense. But I let that slide, mainly because absolutely everything else was crafted so perfectly in this film. Now, Cecilia takes the bold move of heading to her old house (You know, the Adrian house? Right, that one.) where she discovers the invisi-suit. She makes the brave move of hiding the suit in the same hiding spot where she hid the things she was going to take with her at the beginning of the film. Eventually she is attacked by an invisible individual, and she runs for her life. 

Meeting her sister for dinner, at a crowded restaurant, she attempts to restore their relationship. Cecilia is 100% alone at this point after all. After beginning to tell Emily what she found at Adrian’s house, someone slits Emily’s throat, and then puts the knife in Cecilia’s hand. Well, I’ll give you exactly one guess who the other patrons think that killed her sister. One. No. It wasn’t the Chef, in the restaurant, with the steak knife! That’s not even a thing! Yes, of course, everyone thought Cecilia had just murdered her sister in front of everyone. Was that so hard? I have to say that Emily’s murder was one of the most beautiful turns of this great movie. I had kept wondering how exactly she was going to be admitted into the mental ward, and to have it go down like this was just fantastic. I mean, sucked for Emily, don’t get me wrong. But a really great screenplay twist. But an even better twist is Cecilia’s learning that she is pregnant. WAIT WHAT? How? Please tell me the baby is James’ and we just missed that bit?! 

But no. We aren’t that lucky. Adrian had actually swapped out Cecilia’s (hidden) birth control pills, for some Pez, and voila. But now Adrian wants the baby. So when Tom visits Cecilia, he comes with an offer to get the charges dropped if she comes back to our man of the year, Adrian, and raise the child with him. Which means? Tom is totally, 100%, in on this entire ploy. The “suicide,” the child business, everything. Well, obviously, Cecilia refuses the deal, and steals a fountain pen (a rather glorious one at that) from Tom. Back at her cell, Cecilia stabs herself in the wrist in order to get Adrian to show himself. When he does, she actually begins stabbing Adrian’s suit, which makes him visible. Which is when the real crazy begins. The guards begin arriving, and dying, and arriving, and dying. Obviously, Adrian won’t hurt Cecilia, so she is able to make it out into the rain. Then she realizes that Adrian might not hurt her, but he definitely will kill Sydney as retribution instead. 

Cecilia books it to James’ house, where she discovers James and Sydney just getting worked over by an invisible man. Thankfully – REJOICE – Cecilia manages to kill the invisible man quite easily. Wait, is that the end? That was easier than I thought it would be for such a clever movie. Oh, snap, wait, that wasn’t Adrian! It was Tom!?!? And the pièce de résistance? When police go to Adrian’s house, they find a tied up and captive Adrian. WOAH IS ME! My evil brother has been abusing me all these years!!! But Cecilia is literally having none of it. The cops though? They love this alibi. I mean, what’s there not to love about it? But Cecilia, heads out to the house to meet Adrian for dinner, and for some Israeli/Palestinian summit talks. But we learn, Cecilia doesn’t want to make amends with this hell-spawn, she wants to get him to confess. To say something that will prove to the cops that Cecilia isn’t out of her mind. But Adrian is on his game tonight. He says NOTHING to hint that he was involved in “Tom’s Plan.” Gah. What’s a girl to do?

Oh, I don’t know, slit his throat maybe? But how would she get away with that? Huh, what if she maybe went with the invisi-suit that she hid earlier in the movie? Yeah! That’s the ticket, and that’s what she does, she steps away to the bathroom, returns in the suit, and makes a scene of Adrian slitting his own throat. Then comes back and completely freaks out when she calls the cops. The only other hurdle to this murder plot is that James was on to her. But ultimately he knows the crap that Adrian has put her through, and decides he’s not going to make a stink about it. 

The Cultural Relevance of The Invisible Man - explained, and dissected.

A Few Thoughts on The Invisible Man

I sort of pontificated wildly as I went. But I definitely valued the new and innovative perspective that Whannell brought to this standard, troped out – motifed out, metastory type. It’s as if The Wind had been told from the perspective of the woman on the plains and there was no such thing as prairie madness. Oh, wait, you haven’t seen that movie? Dude, you totally need to. It’s a great contrapuntal vantage on The Invisible Man if you have. So go watch it. Or, if The Wind isn’t your cup o’tea, then Starfish! That’s the perfect counterpoint. I loved Starfish so much, it won my Top 25 Mindjob Movie Competition – but it also falls into that, is she? isn’t she trope that The Invisible Man utterly destroys here.

But some have come out and said that The Invisible Man preys on women who are belittled and abused. That we shouldn’t take advantage of these disadvantaged few. Instead we should speak out against the inhumanity, and push back against the darkness….or something. I’m not even sure well enough how that argument goes to repeat it. And I think I generally comprehend what this faction is going for here, I can’t agree. By walking in Cecilia’s shoes, by watching every single structural support get stripped away and turned against her, we see the plight of the abused for what it is. We can see for our own eyes how the privileged (namely the rich, powerful, white male) are so easily able to turn the system in on itself. During different times over the course of the film we watch as family, friends, co-workers, even the police, all come to the defense of the abuser. Which, is unbelievable, and completely incomprehensible. At least for me anyway. But that isn’t fair at all. But she’s telling the truth dangit! Etc., etc. Which, is the point of the film. (I mean, besides being wildly entertaining.)

There were a few glitches that snagged for me as we went. I mentioned the first one, about the paint. But the other one was how Cecilia sold James on the idea of coming with her to record Adrian’s admission. I mean, he’d allow it? She’d be in an incredible amount of danger. There’s no way. Also, why would he actually believe that she’d be able to get him to come right out and confess? She had to be up to something. And yes, that wasn’t her true intention, but it had to be plausible enough for James to buy it, no? But other than that, I thought it was a pretty airtight screenplay. I especially loved the detail about where Cecilia stored her get away stash, only to use it again for the film’s ending. That was a really well cooked grenade – and it worked perfectly.

I enjoyed it. I’ve never seen a camera pan – scanning through thin air – turn out to be so scary. There was nothing there! And yet, we knew that the cameraman was supposedly tracking her nemesis. It was the cheapest special effect imaginable. It was fantastic. Anyway, I loved the whole movie. But I mainly loved Elizabeth Moss’ brilliant acting. She just ripped this screenplay to shreds. Absolutely crushed it. I was extraordinarily impressed with how well she played this part. But this isn’t anything we don’t know about her already. She is just a phenomenal actor.

   * Look, I understand that this movie isn’t a superhero movie. It’s called HUMOR. When I told the guys that were with me that I was excited to see a “superhero movie” with them they literally laughed – in my face. Loudly. 

Edited by: CY

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3 Responses

  1. Spencer M.

    Do you think the invisi-suit will pop up in a sequel or do all the suits get so messed up that none of them can be used again?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      You are asking about a sequel from within the construct of the fiction. It’s easier to figure that out through real world numbers. The budget on this film was $7m (???!!!!). Usually big box office movies will double their production in adverts – but with a budget this small, maybe they spent $20m. Their opening weekend was $28m – which was around break even from a rough guesstimate standpoint. The global box for this movie was like, 130m before it was cracked in the face by Covid-19. But, I am hearing that Universal is releasing it online on March 20 for $20? With everyone at home, it probably will do really well in that market. The word of mouth on this thing was pretty huge. Maybe it rides to $200m? $250m? More?

      So – now, to answer your question – do I think the invisi-suit will come back in a sequel, or was it too damaged? No, that suit definitely wasn’t too damaged! hahahaha. But this screenplay will be difficult to reproduce unless it lapses back into normal horror or super hero tropes. We’ll see though. If you figure out how to bring Elizabeth Moss back for the sequel and I’m in. But man, that’s going to take an Eric Heisserer screenplay writing level of brilliance to pull off.

      Reply
  2. Aaron

    Ok, another bleak movie that I picked randomly when feeling quite down about the current world situation we’re in and now feel even more down. I knew you’d have already covered it though. Maybe a bit silly in places with the invisi suit but your summary is spot on and it’s a great movie overall. Glad I had my cat and a bottle of wine with me though,

    Reply

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