Friday, July 11, 2008

Film Review: The Visitor

Note: This continues my series of backtracking through the movies I have seen in the past two months and haven’t had time to review. I’ll be catching up on several more reviews over the next few weeks

The Visitor
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Released April 18, 2008
Seen May 6, 2008

At this point in the 2008 calendar year, I would have to say that “The Visitor” is probably the most critically-beloved film to make a big enough splash to be widely known (Metacritic ranks it #12 on their list of best-reviewed movies of the year). I’d love to be able to jump on the bandwagon and wholeheartedly agree with the praise heaped upon it, but I wasn’t as impressed as many others. To start off, I’m a huge fan of Richard Jenkins from his stellar work on “Six Feet Under” and in 2005’s “North Country”. He plays his solemn, quiet role here well, though I do enjoy when he has a bit more of a sardonic wit about him. The premise of the film – a college professor visits his New York City apartment to find two illegal immigrants living there – sounds intriguing enough, but I think that the movie allows the premise to speak for itself too much. The script skips the real interesting parts of the developing relationship between Walter and his new friends to focus on the problems that follow instead. For a movie so seemingly uninterested in adhering to standard conventions (especially from Thomas McCarthy, whose previous film was the wonderful “The Station Agent”), it would have been nice if it had spent some time just watching the relationships evolve rather than forcing action and twists and turns on the story. I understand why that’s all relevant, but the movie would have been a far more powerful and moving experience for me had that been emphasized. I didn’t connect or truly sympathize with the characters, but I desperately wanted to. The music in the film is great, however, and it’s cool to see both NYU and Connecticut College take center stage as the locales for this film. It aims to fulfill the true independent film experience, but I’ve been much more impressed with other fare. This is by no means bad, but I would recommend seeing “The Station Agent” instead.


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