Thursday, February 25, 2016

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

Based on the novel by H.F. Saint, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is the story of a stock analyst who suddenly turns invisible due to an experiment gone wrong as he tries to evade a CIA operative with the help of a woman he had fallen in love with. Directed by John Carpenter and screenplay by Robert Collector, Dana Olsen, and William Goldman, the film is a mixture of comedy, sci-fi, and drama as it relates to a man’s plight in being invisible as Chevy Chase plays the role of the invisible man named Nick Holloway. Also starring Daryl Hannah, Michael McKean, Paul Perri, Pat Skipper, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Sam Neill. Memoirs of an Invisible Man is an intriguing but lackluster film from John Carpenter.

The film revolves around this shallow and bored stock analyst whose life goes upside when he becomes invisible during a botched experiment where he is pursued by a psychotic CIA operative. While it is a simple story, it’s a film that is largely told from the perspective of its protagonist Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) who doesn’t just cope with what happened to him but also how much it changed him just as he is thinking about moving away from this world where he just thought about himself. While it’s a film and story that is interesting, it does unfortunately suffer from not just in what it wanted to be but also in how conventional it is. The film’s script which was originally written by William Goldman and largely re-written by Robert Collector and Dana Olsen wanted to be a lot of things. A suspense-comedy with some existential drama as well as a romantic-adventure film but it’s never consistent despite some interesting characters in Halloway, the love interest Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah) and, the antagonist in CIA operative David Jenkins (Sam Neill).

John Carpenter’s direction is quite interesting not just for the visual effects as well as some visual homage to the 1933 James Whale film The Invisible Man. It also plays into the many things that are happening to Halloway where there are interesting bits of character study in the film. Shot largely on location in San Francisco and parts of Northern California, the film does play into something that has Carpenter pay tribute of sorts to other suspense-based films from the city while also wanting to create something that had an air of drama and light comedy. Despite some unique compositions he creates, he is unable to overcome many of the faults in the script as some of the scenes involving Jenkins feel like they come from another film. Even as Carpenter tries to blend so many elements as some of its humor where it feels forced despite its efforts to be very natural where the results never really mesh as a whole. Overall, Carpenter makes an interesting but very underwhelming and messy film about a man becoming invisible.

Cinematographer William A. Fraker does nice work with the film‘s cinematography for many of the scenes set at night in terms of its lighting as well as some naturalistic look for some scenes at the beach in the daytime. Editor Marion Rothman does excellent work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward for much of the dramatic and suspenseful moments in the film. Production designer Lawrence G. Paull, with set decorator Rick Simpson and art director Bruce Cone, do terrific work with the look of Halloway‘s apartment as well as the summer home of a friend where he would hide for a while. Costume designer Joe I. Tompkins does fine work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual including the clothes Halloway would wear over himself when he‘s invisible.

Visual effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does have some brilliant moments in the way things look in the way the Halloway would be seen to everyone when he‘s invisible though some of it is quite scratchy considering that it was new and probably needed a few things to make it more polished. Sound editors Gordon Ecker and John Leveque do superb work with the sound in the way some of the locations are presented as well as the sound of the tranquilizer guns that Jenkins’ men uses. The film’s music by Shirley Walker is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that features some string-based themes for some of its dramatic and suspenseful moments.

The casting by Sharon Howard-Field does amazing work with the film’s cast as it includes notable appearances from Rosalind Chao as Halloway’s secretary, Patricia Heaton as George’s girlfriend Ellen, Gregory Paul Martin as a friend of George in Richard who tries to flirt with Alice to the annoyance of Halloway, Barry Kivel as a drunk businessman Halloway uses to get a cab, and the trio of Pat Skipper, Paul Perri, and Richard Epcar as Jenkin’s henchmen who try to help him capture Halloway. Jim Norton is terrific as Dr. Bernard Wachs as a scientist who might know what happened to Halloway and how to help him only to be captured by Jenkins. Stephen Tobolowsky is superb as Jenkins’ superior Warren Singleton who sees Jenkins as a loose cannon as he tries to clean up the mess while being someone that could help Halloway. Michael McKean is fantastic as Halloway’s friend George who would introduce him to Alice as he has no clue what is happening while admitting that Halloway has a lot of faults.

Sam Neill is brilliant as David Jenkins as this CIA operative who is quite obsessive in capturing Halloway while being this man that is so cunning and engaging where he offers Halloway a chance to be part of something historic and do things where it’s one of Neill’s finest and more underrated performances. Daryl Hannah is excellent as Alice as a love interest that manages to rise above the weak material she is given as someone that finds Halloway interesting while is someone that needs something different as she provides key reasons to make Halloway and settle for a new life. Finally, there’s Chevy Chase in a marvelous performance as Nick Halloway as a vain stock analyst whose life changes by this botched experiment he wasn’t supposed to be a part of while coming to terms with his condition as it’s Chase being very dramatic where he is funny though some aspects of the humor feels forced due to the faults of the script.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a very messy and half-realized film from John Carpenter. Despite some solid performances from Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, and Sam Neill as well as some unique but imperfect visual effects. It’s a film that falls very short in what it wanted to be as well as try to be a lot for a wide audience. In the end, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a lackluster film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

Carpenter's kind of hit and miss with me and I never bothered with this one. Don't think I'm going to worry about seeing it, either.

thevoid99 said...

The 90s and so on from John Carpenter are hit and miss although this one isn't a total waste of time. I'm a Chevy Chase fan and I really think he had the chops to do drama yet it was Sam Neill that kind of stole the film from him which is a reason why he and John Carpenter worked together again in the severely underrated In the Mouth of Madness which people should really check out.

ruth said...

I don't think I've seen any of John Carpenter's stuff. The premise of this one intrigues me though, and I do like Sam Neill. But I'm more keen in seeing 'In the Mouth of Madness' which you reviewed before.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I'd stick with In the Mouth of Madness and his work from the 70s and the 80s for a better view into his work. This was a film he did as a work of hire as he hadn't done a film in a few years as it was originally supposed to be a film directed by Ivan Reitman but creative differences between himself and Chevy Chase led to Reitman's departure and a drastic re-write on the script. It's an OK film but nothing great except for Chase and Sam Neill.