what i'm watching: the visitor, persepolis, philip seymour hoffman, electric car, more

We saw a terrific movie this week, which you won't want to miss: "The Visitor," written and directed by Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy directed another favourite movie of mine, "The Station Agent".

The Visitor is both a personal and a political story, and the two are seamlessly woven together. As someone who is always trying to do that in my own writing, I can tell you it's incredibly difficult, and seldom achieved as well as McCarthy did here.

The movie is about people coming out of their own isolation and pain by reaching out to others, by feeling responsible to the people around them. Loneliness is broken by making connections deeper than the appearances that divide us, and music is a road on which those connections travel. The movie is also about immigration, detention and deportation, and what those words mean in human terms.

Excellent acting, excellent writing, poignant and sad, but hopeful and uplifting. Don't miss it.

Update: Another reason I loved this movie, which I forgot to mention earlier. It's a great New York City movie. None of this filmed-in-Toronto-fake-New-York stuff here. It made me a little homesick, which means it was the real deal.

* * * *

Quick wrap-up of Movie Season so far, in reverse order:

Reservation Road: Good, not great. Good concept and some decent writing, but once the premise was played out, there was nowhere to go.

The Visitor: Excellent, a must-see.

Persepolis: Excellent. Another personal and political story.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: Very good, very suspenseful, another amazing performance by the ubiquitous PSH. (Those of us who watch independent films have been tracking his career with amazement for a long, long time.)

Who Killed the Electric Car?: Not stellar in documentary terms, but a real eye-opener, full of important information and worth seeing.

Charlie Wilson's War: Very good. Some interesting insights into how foreign policy is and is not made.

There Will Be Blood: Hated it. Even Daniel Day-Lewis's typically excellent performance wasn't enough to make up for this mess of a movie.

Dan in Real Life: Nice romantic comedy, entertaining, and some really nice acting. I like good romantic comedies, but seldom find them.

I'm Not There: Terrible. Once you get over the concept (various people playing Bob Dylan, including a black child and a woman), it's a bunch of long-disproved Dylan myths and cliches strung together.

Run, Fat Boy, Run: Loved it. Funny and sweet without being cloying. I imagine Simon Pegg will make a bad movie one day, but he hasn't done it yet.

On deck: When the Levees Broke. Kind of crazy that we haven't seen this yet, I know.


Amy said...

We loved The Visitor also. What a powerful movie. We saw it last winter in the theater---a rare treat for us, but we had a feeling this one would be worth it. We talked about it long after, and even months later, I can still remember certain scenes vividly.

laura k said...

I'm glad you saw it. I mentioned it to my mother the other day, and was happy to hear she had seen it too.

Something tells me we talked about this on a gamethread... I remember mentioning The Station Agent, and you said you also liked that movie and didn't realize it was the same filmmaker.

Richard Jenkins, who played the professor, was amazing.

M@ said...

Run, Fat Boy, Run: Loved it. Funny and sweet without being cloying.

I meant to tell you this after we discussed this movie briefly a few weeks ago. I loved Dylan Moran in RFBR, and I went to look up what else he's done. I recognized Black Books because you've mentioned it here before.

I got hold of season 1 and watched it on my iPod. Holy crap is it funny. I was watching it on the train and couldn't keep from laughing.

So thanks for the indirect recommendation!

laura k said...

Hooray for Black Books!! The first season is SO funny.

We have the whole series on DVD if you want to borrow it. It doesn't stay as hilarious as Season 1 but it's still very very good.

Dylan Moran had a supporting role in Shaun of the Dead. You may recall he comes to a gruesome end.

He seems to be in the constellation of comic actors with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, of Hot Fuzz fame.

They did a Brit Com series called "Spaced" which had a cult following. I've only seen one episode. It was funny but I had a feeling you had to see more to get the whole scope, characters, etc. (like a lot of good comedy series).

Simon Pegg also has a very funny cameo in one ep of Black Books. We happened to see that episode right after seeing Shaun of the Dead, one of those bizarre coincidence moments.

On Wikipedia, Simon Pegg is linked to both Nick Frost and Dylan Moran. I definitely have to see more of their stuff.

laura k said...

Simon Pegg also has a very funny cameo in one ep of Black Books. We happened to see that episode right after seeing Shaun of the Dead, one of those bizarre coincidence moments.

Which apparently I had to announce.

Amy said...

You know, I was pretty sure that I had mentioned this movie to you after we saw it. Thanks for reassuring me that I had not dreamed it!

Jenkins was wonderful. Funny thing is that the first thing that intrigued me about seeing this movie was that he was playing a character who was a professor at my alma mater, a school that rarely gets any mention in the popular media. It came up in an alumni newsletter! Of course, that fact has virtually nothing to do with the movie or why I liked it, but it got me to read the reviews and then go see it!

M@ said...

I still haven't seen Shaun of the Dead... I'll get to it someday.

I read a great interview with Pegg somewhere that prompted me to acquire Spaced too. Haven't watched any of it yet but I'm looking forward to it -- after I finish with Black Books.

(How did I not recognize Nick Frost in his cameo in Black Books!?)

laura k said...

(How did I not recognize Nick Frost in his cameo in Black Books!?)

Who does he play?? I must have seen it before I knew of him.

M@ said...

According to Wikipedia, he's the alarm installer with the little man in his hair. I haven't gone back to verify.

laura k said...

I definitely did not see that! Wikipedia also says he does a voice on an answering machine in the ep where Manny's parents visit. That's in a later season, I believe.

Stephanie said...

I know your call for film recommendations went out some time ago but given that I had not heard of the Visitor and am now planning to see it may I recommend in return two of my favorites from the past year.

1) Lars and the Real Girl (just for fun!!)

It is a romantic comedy of a sort. I especially liked that the film/writing sucked me right in to the situation.

2) the Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon).

laura k said...

Thanks Stephanie!

The Diving Bell & The Butterfly is #2 on my Zip list. I read the book, and am very interested in the movie.

And Lars and the Real Girl is #10.

We are thinking alike! :)

David Cho said...

Added to my queue!

I wish there was a place in Netflix to note who the recommender is for the movie.

So I know to go thank/kill that person if I end up loving/hating it :).