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I’d been looking forward to The Visitor, a combination of my appreciation of The Station Agent, my experience with DHS, and that I’d had the DVD for over a month before I watched it (not that I want to place blame, it could have been the fault of any single one of my roommates).  One of the few potential Oscar nominees released in the first half of the year, The Visitor tells the story of a New England professor going through the motions of life who finds a couple of illegal immigrants living in his rarely-used New York apartment.

The Visitor, frankly, is a middling movie.  While it shares some themes of loneliness found in The Station Agent, the latter movie more deeply probes loneliness as well as ensuing relationships.  This film doesn’t really build compelling relationships, leading to a story which didn’t particularly draw me in.  The connection formed between the white bread Richard Jenkins and the free spirit drummer of free spirit drummer Haaz Sleiman is pretty standard stuff, as is the budding romance between Jenkins and Hiam Abbass.

Even the commentary on DHS and our immigration policies was disappointing.  I have no problems with McCarthy telling only one side of the story, especially because nothing he shows is particularly inaccurate.  But to me it failed to add any real emotion or insight to the matter.  People who find our policies on immigration and our methods of detention to be any combination of naive, wrong, silly, or poorly handled will likely cheer the relevant scenes.  And those who agree with our current policies, or want to see them become even more strict, will likely dismiss the movie for unfounded bias.  But most of all, the situation wasn’t nearly as moving as I think it should have been.

The Visitor has been getting Oscar buzz because of Richard Jenkins’s performance in the lead role.  Granting that no one knows anything when it comes to the Academy, it would seem that he’s right on the bubble for a nomination.  It is would be great story since Jenkins is a veteran character actor, the type who are always around, but never to star or receive accolades.  But to me, that’s the only reason he’s in the conversation.  His character in the film isn’t particularly interesting, and as far as I can tell, doesn’t have any discernible emotions.  I’m happy for Jenkins and always thrilled to have less conventional nominations, but I just couldn’t support one here.

January 2020
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