The Visitor

The nominations:

  • Actor – Richard Jenkins

The Black-and-White:

A review by Moviegirl

Here’s the synopsis from wikipedia (which sounds like a different movie altogether):

The Visitor is a 2007 American drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy. The screenplay focuses on a lonely man in late middle age whose life changes when he is forced to face issues relating to identity, immigration, and cross-cultural communication in post-9/11 New York City.

It’s funny that this film is called The Visitor, rather than The Visitors, considering that the story is about a man who encounters two illegal immigrants happily living in his apartment in New York City, under the impression that they have sublet from a friend. But that is the point of the film — that the man who is trying to figure out how he fits in the world after the death of his wife is more of an outsider than the young jewelry designer from Senegal or her muscian boyfriend from Syria, or even the boyfriend’s mother who comes from Michigan after the son is detained for being in the country on an expired visa.

It’s hard to describe the film without sounding like some odd conglomeration of The Goodbye Girl and Green Card (complete with bucket drumming!). What I will say is that I found the story fresh, and that the fact that you could sort of see the ending coming was not because the writer/director was taking a cliched way out, but because the result was so plausible (even inevitable) given the current attitude toward noncitizens who look a certain way in this country.

Richard Jenkins puts in a commendably nuanced performance, capturing the way that grief changes the way you relate to the rest of the world. I never watched Six Feet Under — the only other roles I’ve seen him in have been character or supporting actors — but I was impressed by his ability to sustain a leading role.

Although I think it’s great that the Academy chose to recognize Jenkins’s performance in this small film over another nod for Leo diCaprio (who filled the fifth “best actor” slot at the Golden Globes), realistically, I don’t think he stands a chance against frontrunners Mickey Rourke (who won the Golden Globe) and Sean Penn. And there is a reasonable chance of a Benjamin Button sweep, or that Frank Langella (in his first nominated role) might get the win for career achievement as well as his strong work in Frost/Nixon.

And, as much as I liked Jenkins’s performance, I actually thought the real standouts in this film were Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira who played the squatters, and Hiam Abbass who played the mother. I think all put in a stronger (or at least as strong of a) performance than any of the other nominees in the “supporting” category that we have seen thus far.

No bollywood endings here, but well worth renting.

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