The Visitor Thomas McCarthy

The Visitor Thomas McCarthy
Thomas McCarthy (director of The Station Agent) stumbles badly with this do-good enterprise that does no actual good. Instead of awakening his audience to his dubiously expressed "social issue,” he engineers the ego massage of a white man and spikes the ball for this apparently sensitive gesture. As with many of these films, the disadvantaged exist purely to release the dominant culture from angst. This time, an uptight academic (Richard Jenkins) finds himself in control when he visits a seldom-used apartment and finds a Senegalese couple (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Jekesai Gurira) squatting there. Naturally, he gets the big idea to let them stay, thus resulting in some pompous talk, the letting go of Jenkins’s personal tragedy and, hey, the excitement of Djembe drumming. And when Sleiman is arrested for ridiculous reasons and detained under the Patriot Act, our hero really has reason to shine. McCarthy completely fails to notice that he’s a particular genus of pseudo-left parasite that points out the obvious so as to avoid the more complicated nuances of racism and otherness. One has visions of him punching the air between takes and howling like Wolfman Jack, so clearly pleased is he with himself and the success of his non-politics. Never mind that the film’s self-satisfaction circumscribes Sleiman and Gurira with pious victim roles, never once empowering their characters while allegedly acting in their interests. I started this thing rolling my eyes at the clichés but got so creeped out by the presumption of the enterprise that I barely made it through. Extras include a fatuous, faux-self-effacing director/cast commentary, several featurettes that overstate the excellence of the production and deleted scenes. (Alliance)