12 January 2009

Oh My God You So Totally Have To See This Movie

Any sane person with a headache would stay the bloody hell away from a computer screen and rest for a bit.

I have a headache.

So aside from my lack of sanity, why am I here, now, with a computer screen before my eyes?

The blame principally goes to actor Richard Jenkins and writer/director Thomas McCarthy. You see, I just finished watching The Visitor on On Demand (yes I "missed it" in theaters).

What a terrific film. Jenkins plays Walter, an old has been economics professor bereft of all emotion. We may assume that this condition stems from his status as a widower.

Walter reluctantly journeys from his Connecticut home to stay in his seldom-used New York apartment. He must present a paper he didn't even write at a conference in the Big Apple. What's this? There's a naked Senegalese woman in the bathtub and her Syrian boyfriend lurking about?

Welcome to the first day of the rest of Walter's life.

Jenkins's performance ranks right up there with Sean Penn's in Milk as one of the very best of the year. Here's the word you want for it: nuanced. Great actors can do express so much with so little physical exertion that its astounding. Jenkins face is a like a straight white line. When he raises the corner of his mouth we learn volumes about his character. When he at last lets loose its all the more powerful.

There's a lot to learn about Walter and the transformation he undergoes in the new world he enters through his two friends and one of their mothers. It would be criminal to give away the slightest bit of this story -- it must be experienced first hand -- except to say he goes from failed piano player to talented bongo drummer.

No seriously.

But more importantly he goes from dead outside to alive in and out.

This is a film about music, rhythm, love, immigration, bureaucracy, intimacy without sex and the redemptive powers of the human soul. Amid all the Spidermen, Hulks, Hellboys and other garbage, thank goodness films like The Visitor are still around to nourish the soul. Needless to say McCarthy deserves the lion's share of the credit. This is his first film since his directorial debut with The Station Agent (2003) some five years ago. For God's sakes McCarthy, don't make us wait another five years.

And you out there. If you haven't seen The Visitor do yourself a favor and rent it or watch it on On Demand. It was worth me dashing over to the computer despite a pounding brain.

Between thinking about The Visitor and listening to a Sidney Bechet CD I got in Paris, I feel like telling the headache to go screw.


Jess said...

I really liked this too. It wasn't mind-blowing or have anything explode, so it probably will miss out on recognition, but it was one of the most unique films I've ever seen.

R. D. Finch said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this movie. I didn't know it was out on DVD yet and have ordered it from Netflix. I really liked "The Station Agent." I knew Jenkins from "Six Feet Under" but didn't realize he had appeared in small roles in so many movies until I started reading reviews of this one. I've even seen a couple of them and especially remember him as the FBI agent who drops acid in "Flirting with Disaster," even though I didn't know who he was at the time.