2.07.2009

The Visitor

In terms of movies, we saw the highs and the lows in the Powell household this past weekend.

Friday night brought us Eagle Eye, a film so utterly devoid of compelling storytelling that I tuned it out after about thirty minutes. Jeanne fell asleep. Underwhelming performances, tepid pacing, shallow writing and dreadful special effects (Ooooohhhh! The orange globes indicate the mother computer is scanning our conversations!) torpedoed this one. DJ Caruso tried to keep the energy level high, but it felt disjointed and, frankly, joyless.

I like Shia LeBeouf, too. I'd like to see him get a piece that pushed his range as an actor a little bit. But, oh well. IMDB lists only a sequel to last year's Transformers for the months ahead.

To contrast, The Visitor is an 'A' film on every level. From a narrative perspective, the exposition here is keen. I really admire how much director Tom McCarthy leaves to the imagination while still drawing dynamic, three dimensional performances from his cast. The director of the critically acclaimed The Station Agent frames a visually attractive film. He allows his actors space and doesn't push the story's politically charged plot to tedium.


Richard Jenkins gives a measured, compelling performance as Professor Walter Vale, a widower with an endearing love of music. Jenkins instills a letter-perfect tone in the character. His Vale juxtaposes an emotional recovery against a backdrop of crushing loss--a stark contrast, to be sure. Jenkins, a popular comedic actor whose not instantly recognizable here, delivers the goods in this film. Great work.

The Visitor is a fine example of everything that's good about the movies. Add it to the queue and save it for a time when you can carve out two uninterrupted hours to soak it all in.

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