Monday, October 6, 2008

The Visitor

A movie that tackles the fears and frustrations of people caught up in our post-9/11 immigration system probably isn’t the easiest studio sell. Throw in a romantic subplot involving an un-handsome middle-aged man (gasp!), add a couple of low-wattage stars, and it’s a wonder that The Visitor was made at all. Be glad that it was: It’s a carefully crafted, beautifully acted film that starts off slowly but doesn’t soon let go.

Six Feet Under’s Richard Jenkins plays Walter — a widowed college professor who’s set his life on autopilot. One day, Walter returns to his New York pied-à-terre and discovers a Syrian musician and a Senegalese street vendor living there. Instead of kicking the couple out, he befriends them. But if you’re expecting Live Aid pieties, you’re in for a surprise or two; The Visitor’s writer-director, Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent), takes sharp turns on the way to his destination. And Jenkins — a character actor who turned 60 last year — delivers a late-inning star turn: His tiniest gestures pack more of a punch than most of Al Pacino’s recent monologues.

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