My DVD Shelf: "The Visitor"
Well, the caption to that photo sort of says it all, eh?
I love Richard Jenkins, man. I've been on the Jenkins bandwagon for years. I thought he was un-freakin-believable in "Flirting With Disaster," one of my favorite films of the '90s. I remember seeing a test screening of the pleasant but unmemorable "Say It Isn't So," and the one thing that I couldn't get enough of was Jenkins. Film after film, on TV, anywhere I've seen him, he has been consistently real, able to play loony and laureate, and he's done it while remaining relatively low-profile.
If "The Visitor" makes Jenkins a national treasure, as he should be, then it's served its purpose. I think it's strange how most of the conversation about the film is focused on the single performance, when the film is very much of a piece with Tom McCarthy's first film, "The Station Agent." That was a gentle ensemble piece that worked because of the way the relationships unfolded, and so is this one. No suprise his films turn out to be showcases for actors; McCarthy's an actor himself, a very good character actor who is probably best known for his run as the reporter who makes shit up on the last season of "The Wire." But you've seen a lot of him over the years... he's just one of those faces who works all the time.
Both of his films are rewarding and heartfelt. "The Visitor" didn't make my list this year, and I got mail from some of you asking why. It just... didn't. I enjoyed every minute of the movie, and I think there's a warm, generous quality to the story it tells. It's not the racial harmony parable I was afraid it was going to be, but is instead more a look at a man in crisis who finds an unlikely way to focus his sorrow and loneliness. And Jenkins plays this guy with such lived-in authority, such a squashed sadness about him. He's shut down, intentionally closed to even the random chance of human contact. It's only when a young Syrian couple is dropped in his path unavoidably that he is forced to really connect to anyone for any reason for the first time in years. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is a young musician who is living with his girlfriend in an apartment they were rented... but it's a scam, and it turns out to be the apartment that Walter (Jenkins) shared with his wife before she died. He hasn't been back in a while, and someone knew that, took advantage of it. Tarek and Zainab (Dunai Gurira) have nowhere to go, and they're not in the country legally, and something in Jenkins recognizes this basic need... and he responds.
And there's such beauty in the idea that all the drama that follows in this film comes from that one thing... that decision to respond to someone instead of rejecting them... and the way a single thing like that can radically alter the course of your life. It's not some wild "HOLY! SHIT!" type coincidence that the film builds to; it's not trying to dazzle you with a twist or a knock-out. It's just this sort of gradual bloom of a man who had been on the verge of just fading away completely. And McCarthy and his collaborators (Oliver Bokelberg's photography and the score by Jan Kaczmarek's score both deserve special praise) manage to capture all of this with a deceptive grace. "The Visitor" is one of those films that goes off like a time bomb, where its charms continue to unfold in hindsight, and I suspect it's worth a revisit.
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
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