Superhero films are a dime a dozen these days but even before Hollywood's new found love of the comic book crimefighters, people – or rather, children – have wanted to be superheroes. Griff (Ryan Kwanten), a man blessed (or cursed) with a child's sense of wonder, certainly sees no reason why he can't be one, too.
Mild mannered accountant by day, Griff patrols the backstreets of his Sydney neighbourhood by night decked out in a rubber suit that wouldn't look out of place amongst the wannabe heroes in last year's Kick-Ass. But no matter what some local reviews may suggest, writer-director Leon Ford's Griff The Invisible is not in that film's league; any comparisons begin and end with said suit.
For me, Griff The Invisible has much more in common with Lars and the Real Girl, the 2007 film where Ryan Gosling's title character, unable to relate to real women, begins a relationship with a life-like sex doll named Bianca. But what starts out as a comedy soon becomes a sad story about a deluded man who is eventually coaxed back to reality with the promise of love.
And Griff The Invisible follows a similar trajectory. We're not told why Griff has a thing for fighting crime (did his parents die at the hands of criminals?) though we are told he was bullied as a child. And like Lars, Griff has a disapproving older brother, Tim (Patrick Brammall), who, not for the first time, has had to come take care of the younger Griff.
But like the townsfolk in Lars, Griff finds an ally in Melody (Maeve Dermody), a young woman dating his brother but who finds the reclusive Griff far more fascinating. That's no surprise given that Melody believes in parallel worlds and spends her free time trying to walk through walls. She encourages Griff in his superhero delusions, for better or worse.
All of this is sweet and charming to a point, helped mostly by Kwanten and Dermody's off kilter couple. Kwanten continues to prove his knack for comedy, which he has honed on HBO's vampire series True Blood, and which he deploys here but to much more understated effect.
But the film wavers between whether or not it is better to allow Griff to live in his fantasy world or if he should embrace (however unappealingly it is depicted in the film) normalcy, settling on a somewhat unconvincing compromise (more so than in Lars) where love conquers all.