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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘The Invisible Man’ – movie with feminist agenda is visibly flawed

Movie poster for "The Invisible Man"

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Given its not-so-subtle feminist agenda, “The Invisible Man” might better be called “The Invisible Woman.”

At least that way it wouldn’t evoke the ghost of H. G. Wells and his famed novella, with which it has little in common besides an invisible guy (natch) and the fact that he was an expert in optics before going, um, transparent.

Scene from “The Invisible Man”

The movie stars Elisabeth Moss who plays most of her scenes as if she had a “Handmaid’s Tale” hangover. No wonder since she’s cast as a woman at the mercy of an abusive man who controls everything from what she thinks to what she wears. Until, that is, she escapes from his ultra-modern lair by the sea (shades of Julia Roberts in “Sleeping with the Enemy”) and hides out with a pal (Aldis Hodge) who also happens to be a policeman.

Handy enough if you could see her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), but not so much if no one can and most of them think you’re nuts (Adrian has apparently – let’s underscore apparently – committed suicide).  Thus, Moss spends a lot of scenes tussling with herself (well, with the unseen but still deadly Adrian) and watching people close to her get sliced up (again, the unseen but still deadly…).

That everybody thinks she’s nuts is central to the movie’s message – that abused women are often not believed or are dismissed. True enough and worthy of a cinematic discussion.

But “The Invisible Man,” alas, comes off as underpopulated, unpersuasive and cheap. Moss’s break for freedom from a psych ward feels especially chintzy as the maniacal Adrian wipes the floor with deputy after deputy (I wondered, briefly, if I were trapped in a ‘70s cop show).

And when the invisible man becomes briefly visible, he’s revealed as wearing a full-body suit that suggests a superhero concept that never made it past the drawing board.

Movie poster for “The Invisible Man”

In the midst of a pandemic, it seems more than a bit silly (and selfish) to go on and on about a failed movie, especially now that moviegoing as we once knew it may be a thing of the past. But as long as we’re all sequestered at home, making what choices we can from what’s available, we may as well spend our time with something that’s worth it.

Hang in, everyone. I’ll try to find something good to watch soon.

Oh, feminist addendum: for a movie as supposedly “woke” as this one, I found a throwaway scene particularly annoying.  Moss, who is an architect, goes for an interview and discovers that Adrian has punk’d her, i.e., removed all the renderings from her resume book.

But what bothered me happens before that. Her potential boss asks her about her past and she mentions six months in Paris, He wonders aloud. “Any reason you worked in Paris?  Is that where all the beautiful women have to go? Is that a rule?”

Are male interviewers still allowed to say stuff like that to female interviewees?  Is that a rule?


Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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1 Comment

  1. LM October 20, 2020 8:39 am

    Agree on all points in particular the interview and cop ahoot out both bugged me! However, I do applaud Leigh’s attempt to create not just another female in danger piece where she has to rely on the new “gentler” boyfriend to save her. That this truely is about the powerful message. I expect more from him as a filmmaker and fellow Aussie but I definitely pay the attempt xxReport


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