Movies Watched This Week: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939), Howl (2010), Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet (2001), Pirate Radio: The Boat that Rocked (2009), The Visitor (2007), A Late Quartet (2012).
January has been the month of watching movies without any rhyme or reason. I’ve watched a couple of animated films, some classics that I’ve never managed to see before, and some films that in the past had typically escaped my interest. January is always a bum month for theater-going, so I managed to save some money for things like utility bills and Dunkin Donuts (oh college living) and instead frequented my Netflix. The week I indulged in my bizarre fascination/sexual attraction with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, watched ballet dancers with more elegant and grace in their finger than I’ll ever achieve in the entirety of my life, and watched James Franco in one of the last things I can call him tolerable in.
Movie Pick of the Week: The Visitor (2007) Directed By: Thomas McCarthy
Well, What’s It About?
On face value, it’s not the most exciting of premises. Walter is lonely, attempting to learn to play the piano for his late wife and sick of his job of teaching one class at a University for the past twenty years. He’s sent to New York City to present a paper he co-authored and upon arrival to his apartment finds a couple living there. They’re Tarek Khalil, a Syrian musician and Zainab, a Senegalese street vendor. Rather than throwing them out, he instead invites them to stay, sympathizing with their illegal immigrant standings and the way they got tricked into living there. It becomes apparent quickly that this also benefits him, a man who cherishes company. Walter grows an appreciation for Tarek’s African drumming, and Tarek notes this and offers to teach him. However, after an innocent incident at a subway station, Tarek is arrested and sent to a detention center for illegal immigration.
From there on, it’s a story of Walter’s dedication to this couple and the way they gave him a peace of mind for the first time in years with their company and Tarek’s music. I loathe to give away any more than this for it would simply ruin the movie and the many emotional punches it throws a viewer’s way.
Okay, But Why Should I Watch It?
So many reasons! Number one: director/writer Thomas McCarthy who has yet to disappoint. He’s helmed movies such as underseen gems Win Win and The Station Agent, and is an expert at elevating an otherwise mundane premise to one that’s poignant, touching and masterfully shot so that there is no moment of film that seems filler. He has managed to weave yet another story of a down on his luck man who finds beauty and fulfillment in the simplest of actions. In Win Win, it was the re-discovery of passion for his family, and in The Station Agent, it was a man’s allowance to trust and the growing of a friendship. The Visitor plays along the same route except this time it includes the mercy of music and how one’s passion for it can obscure the disenchantment for life and the void that many a person will feel at some point in their life. What does one do when he or she is lonely? Turn up their favorite song, and bask in the noise filling it up. Number two: the cast is simply wonderful! Haaz Sleiman, Danai Guirira, and Hiam Abbas work fantastically as supporting players, all exuding a certain warmth that explains Walters draw to them. Richard Jenkins turns out an Oscar caliber performance, adding nuance and subtly to a character already written with so much depth – this is McCarthy after all. Number three: Do you need any other reasons? It surprises you and refuses to play into the Hollywood expectations of storytelling; intrigued yet?
Who Should Watch It?
People who enjoy the quieter stories such as McCarthy’s past efforts and enjoy stories about people rather than spectacle, or maybe someone who wants to sit down and see a real, heartfelt film. Or maybe all of the above! But this movie transcends just one genre and therefore just one audience. Check it out, and decide for yourself if it was made for you.