“INVISIBLE MAN,” NOTICED FOR THRILLS; “LAST THING” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
“THE INVISIBLE MAN” Rated R Any movie infused with psychological thrills and acts of desperation is bound to have a few plot holes, and as entertaining as the thriller “The Invisible Man” turns out to be, exceptions to the rule are not found here.
There’s no need to get into a discussion about the source material of the H.G. Wells eponymous novel. This film’s story is imagined in contemporary times with technological innovations that could have frightening implications. In a standout performance, Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass is trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist acclaimed for his breakthrough work in the scientific field of optics.
The opening scene in the dead of night is a chilling, intense escape that Cecilia devises from the clutches of her abusive partner Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), slipping away with little more than a bag of personal items. Barely making a getaway after an alarm is tripped at the fortress-like seaside mansion, Cecilia is aided by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) so that she may take refuge at the home of childhood friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge).
Moving in with James, an LAPD police officer, and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), seems like a safe haven for Cecilia, especially after Adrian commits suicide, leaving her a generous portion of his vast fortune with certain stipulations. Even beyond the grave (or is he really dead, after all?), Adrian exerts control over Cecilia with conditions that are left to his lawyer sibling Tom Griffin (Michael Dorman) to administer at his discretion.
Soon thereafter, a series of eerie coincidences build tension within the Lanier household, beginning with an unseen force that removes the covers from Cecilia’s bed and then keeping her from pulling the covers back again. The odd things happening in the house become more pronounced, such as an eerie stovetop fire and the odd disappearance of items like Cecilia’s portfolio of architectural drawings.
Convinced that Adrian’s suicide was a hoax and that somehow the genius has found a way to use his optics machine invention to cloak his physical being, Cecilia’s sanity unravels as she tries to prove she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Eventually, the happenings turn more violent to where only Cecilia knows what’s happening and others begin to question her erratic behavior, or worse, suspect that she has committed the foul deeds. All of this is designed, of course, so that Cecilia will start to go mad with paranoia, a state of mind that conveniently would allow the creepy lawyer to rescind any monthly payments of Adrian’s estate.
To its credit, “The Invisible Man,” though it has its share of plot holes, eschews the junk thrills of many horror films and instead creates a mood of dread that builds tension that is really entertaining.
“THE LAST THING HE WANTED” ON NETFLIX
To state the obvious, Netflix is delivering a surfeit of original movies and television series to rival the output of most major studios, networks, and cable channels, and just like its competitors, Netflix will have its share of duds. Case in point is the adaptation of Joan Didion’s novel “The Last Thing He Wanted” into a feature film with an all-star cast that cannot save what turns out to be an incoherent plot not worth following.
Action kicks off in 1982 when Anne Hathaway’s Elena McMahon, an intrepid reporter with the Atlantic Post, and her colleague Alma Guerrero (Rosie Perez), are fleeing a hail of bullets in war-torn El Salvador. Even after safely returning to Washington, D.C., Elena wants nothing more than to return to Central America in pursuit of stories about American involvement in support of Nicaraguan rebels.
Instead, she gets assigned to cover the balloon drops at campaign rallies during the 1984 presidential election, when she’d rather be anywhere else. She gets an out when her estranged father, Dick McMahon (Willem Dafoe), takes ill.
Reunited with her father in Miami, Elena learns that he remains a renegade outlaw even when his final days are at hand. Dick seeks her help to salvage a lucrative seven-figure deal.
Elena heads to the capital city of Costa Rica, where she will broker an arms deal for surplus Army weapons with the Contras, thus putting herself into the middle of her own story that had been sidelined by her editor. Meanwhile, she forms a relationship with shady government official Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck) that creates another murky storyline.
Sadly, Elena’s only emotional connection to anyone consists of phone calls to her young daughter who understandably doesn’t want to be stuck in a boarding school. Also, what’s up with her stint as a maid at a near-deserted beach hotel run by the dissolute ex-pat Paul Schuster (Toby Jones)? Maybe it was a place to hide until safe passage back to the States.
The irony of “The Last Thing He Wanted” is the obvious play on its title as a short-hand summary of a critical review, namely “The Last Thing We Wanted,” or “The Last Thing We Needed.” That pretty well sums it up.