DRUMMING UP A
published June 20,
now playing nationwide
Visitor is not a movie. It’s a book.
It’s a book. Made into a movie. For film
critics. Who hate movies. And love books.
It has the subtlety and depth of a novella,
but not the pulse or juice of a film. It does nothing interesting cinematically whatsoever, which makes you wonder what the point of having a
camera is. Writer-director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) simply chose the wrong medium for the
story. Unfortunately, you have to pay for their mistake by sacrificing your consciousness.
A subdued economics professor nears
retirement. He must attend a conference in
New York, where he still owns an apartment he hasn’t seen in years. When he enters, he finds a pair of squatters – a young immigrant couple. He’s a musician, playing African drums. She makes and sells
bracelets. After a brief scuffle, he invites the young people to stay in his apartment. He’ll
only be there a few days. Soon Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), the young Syrian, teaches the professor, William, to play the drums, taking him to
play in the parks of the Big Apple.
The blossoming odd couple act between the
sixty-ish white guy and the young immigrant Syrian will get you involved. Then the film does the dumbest thing. It takes the one relationship
that’s working and breaks it up halfway through. The Syrian goes to jail on immigration charges, and he takes the story with him.
His mother soon arrives from Detroit. As
they fight to keep her son in the country, the repressed widower warms to her. At which point the filmmakers realize that someone might have
to kiss someone else. They treat this potential open display of affection like a Pilgrim court. And you. Poor you. By this point you’re
praying for God to grant you just one explosion, just one explosion, please!
I will say that the lead performance by
Richard Jenkins is interiorized perfection. It keeps the film somewhat watchable. Or at least it keeps you from crawling into a fetal
position. But the rest of the film indulges in all of the intelligently unadventurous devices that allow smart people to pat themselves on the
back for appreciating. It’s when I watch a film like The Visitor that I wonder if indie people
understand this vulgar medium at all.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com