tcc: the visitor

October 24, 2008

i was fairly excited to jump into this one.  when it first came out, and i had watched the trailer, i was very uninterested and unimpressed.  then i heard some very positive reviews (not to mention positive reviews from filmspotting the most trusted film critics) and a lot of praise heaped onto richard jenkins performance.  so as i picked it up from the library today i figured it would make a good pre-game movie.

and if i had to quantify my response to it in just one word it would be “meh”.  there are some real moments, and some funny moments, and some moments that made me go “awww”, but overall the movie just didn’t do much for me.  and i think richard jenkins is getting too much praise for a performance that really isn’t asking him to do much.  the toughest thing he had to do was learn how to play the african drum.  most of the time he just has to stare blankly back at people, or say something and try to act awkward.

the script was the real drawback for me however.  first of all, it felt like characters would just stand there asking each other questions.  not to mention the very contrived set-up and pay-off to the film, which just felt too on the nose.  the film tries to hard to make statements about u.s. immigration, through jenkins glances over at a mother and her child visiting their husband/father in detention or the discussions on the statue of liberty.  it tries to be understated, but those moments are so out of tone with the rest of the film that it totally takes me out of it.  it’s very predictable, you could almost guess exactly what happens in the scene from the first fifteen seconds.

some of the best moments are the richard jenkins/haaz sleiman scenes, and they work really well, especially when they are around the drums, but the film has too few of those moments.  i love what the film is trying to do with music and life.  creating this fusion between living out your dreams and not caring about the demands of your job.  i think that in our society today we put way too much emphasis on how our career is going to turn out and what will we be doing for a living, but this film tries to get at ‘do what you enjoy’ (which is something i can get very much behind).  but the film gets too caught up in the issues of immigration and haaz sleiman spends most of the film in the detention center.

if you’re looking for something light (maybe you just watched 4 months 3 weeks 2 days), that’s when i can fathom recommending this movie.

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