Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Visitor

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Visitor (A-). This is a manipulative little melodrama, but for me it worked. It may be the first starring role for veteran character actor Richard Jenkins. (Looking at his long list of credits, I see that I've missed many of his movies, but I think he was the government agent who unknowingly ingests LSD and goes on a freaked-out jog in the desert in Flirting with Disaster.) Jenkins plays Walter Vale, an upper-middle-aged widower who has given up on life. He teaches a single economics class at a college in Connecticut and is supposedly at work on his fourth book, but he is clearly just going through the motions. Obliged to present a paper at a conference in NYC, he returns to an apartment he has kept in the city but apparently not visited in a long time. He is startled to find a young Muslim couple living there, having been rented the place by a disappeared con artist. They have nowhere to go, and Vale surprises them and probably himself by letting them stay. The guy, Tarek, (Haaz Sleiman, American Dreamz) is an outgoing fellow from Syria, and he and Vale soon bond over their mutual love of music. The story takes a melodramatic turn when a tiny incident leads to Tarek's arrest, and because he is an illegal alien he is thrown into detention. His wife or girlfriend (I wasn't clear on that) is also illegal, so she can't visit him. Then Tarek's mother shows up from Michigan, because she hasn't heard from her son in several days, and she is an illegal alien as well despite having been in America for what seems to be at least 10-15 years or more. Touching performances all the way around, even if all the non-Americans seem to be a little too good to be real people. Definitely worth seeing unless melodrama or illegal aliens really turn you off.


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