'The Visitor' Will Make Lou Dobbs' Head Explode

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Metro film critic Daniel Holloway offers his take on new movies debuting this weekend, including The Visitor, Smart People and Young at Heart.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Now, most radio shows, they bring on their film critic. We talk about something the film critic likes. Then maybe people go see it. Maybe they don't. No big deal. But The Bryant Park Project, if you tell us to see a movie and it ends up stinking out loud, you're going to pay. Or at least face down the good lady from Idaho.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Oy.

STEWART: Metro film critic Daniel Holloway joins us every Friday to talk about new movies. And Dan, we're going to talk about new movies today. But I'm going to turn things over to Rachel, because she's got a beef.

MARTIN: Cedes her time to the lady from Idaho?

STEWART: I will.

Mr. DANIEL HOLLOWAY (Film Critic, Metro Magazine): Most radio shows are nice to their film critics.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: We're nice to you every week.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah...

MARTIN: We are the nicest radio hosts in the business, I would argue, seriously. But just for one moment, I am going to take issue with you, Daniel Holloway. I'd like to cite exhibit A, from our conversation last week, pulled slightly out of context, mind you. But here is what you said about "My Blueberry Nights."

(Soundbite of interview)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Really pretty incredible.

MARTIN: Uh-uh. OK. Did you hear that? Let's play it again, please. Can we do that? No, we can't. I'll just quote it. "Really pretty incredible." That's what you said about this movie, starring Norah Jones as a heartbroken, lame girl in New York who goes on a road trip and she's in a bar, and other people have bad things that happen to them. Then she goes back to New York and she hooks up with Jude Law. OK, let me just say up front that you are - you put out there that Norah Jones was - her acting was very good.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I gushed a little, yes.

STEWART: You gushed a little. I would say that her acting, ah, sucked.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: I think if you consider that she's a music star and you think, OK, she can't - doesn't know how to do this. She said she's never had acting lessons. I mean, she's a benign force. She's not...

STEWART: OK, Rachel, you've been going on for a minute now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: We need to let Daniel talk.

MARTIN: Oh, OK.

STEWART: It's like I'm on Crossfire. Daniel?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Besides knowing that you feel that the movie sucked, I guess the only thing I can really do is defend Norah Jones' performance, which I felt like she was acting like an exposed nerve, that there was a rawness there that I liked, and that it wasn't so untrained and unpolished that I felt that it came off as unprofessional, which clearly, from the look you're giving me, is shocking news to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Let's put that aside. Can we talk about this plot?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah.

MARTIN: I mean, the plot is so lame, Daniel.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: It's just like a classic American go-off-on-the-road-and-find-yourself sort of plot.

MARTIN: But if we're going to buy her heartbreak, we don't know anything about her, contextually. I don't even - all I know is that some dude dropped off some keys and put them in a...

STEWART: Rachel, what is it you want? You want ten dollars from Daniel, is that what?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I've got ten bucks in my pocket..

MARTIN: Natalie Portman...

Mr. HOLLOWAY: In change.

MARTIN: Was so bad...

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, well, I said last week that Natalie Portman was bad.

MARTIN: You did. You prepared me for that.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes.

MARTIN: The best scene, clearly, I will concede, belongs to Rachel Weisz, though. She was good.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes, Rachel Weisz is - David Strathairn was good, too.

MARTIN: Yes, they're good.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And that's a third of the movie right there.

STEWART: All right, that's like...

Mr. HOLLOWAY: You clearly like a third of the movie and you just don't want to admit it.

MARTIN: You know what also happened, that I have to say before we're done.

STEWART: I can't believe you...

MARTIN: Several people got up and left the theater. Which I think...

STEWART: There's three other movies to talk about...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: In defense of the movie, changed - tainted the whole experience, and now I'm going to stop.

STEWART: All right.

MARTIN: I'm sorry, Daniel.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Listen, I want to tell America right now, who're you going to believe? An experienced National Public Radio reporter or a guy who works at a free newspaper?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Seriously.

MARTIN: You. I still believe you. I still trust you Daniel. Let's talk about what you think.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Let's ruin that trust now.

MARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: There's a movie out called "The Visitor" that I like.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Another one that will make Lou Dobbs' head explode, apparently.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah.

STEWART: The sort of sad, empty-life professor discovers two very nice people living in his apartment. They happen to be immigrants, too, a Syrian man and Senegalese woman, living in his pied-a-terre in New York City. They've been swindled by an unscrupulous rental agent, saying they could live there. So what is the strength of this movie? It's an interesting setup.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, the strength of the movie is it's paced very patiently, there's - but without feeling deliberate. The buildup to him finding these folks living in his apartment takes a little bit longer. It almost happens at the beginning of the second act. It's like right on the border between the first and the second. You're kind of establishing this guy as being sort of a classically disinterested college professor at the - you know, past the peak of his career.

He's, you know, settled in. And, you know, kind of finds himself - his life reinvigorated by having these other people introduced into his life. It's a Muslim couple. One is Syrian. The other is Senegalese. And you don't realize that they're here illegally until the young man who is teaching him African drum while he catches...

STEWART: And thereby reinvigorating his soul, you see this man come alive.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes, as I talk about it, I'm just thinking that, like, Rachel is going to go see this movie and hate it, then I'm going to feel like a jerk.

STEWART: Well, the Syrian man, he ends up getting arrested.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: He gets arrested for hopping a turnstile in the subway and then all heck breaks lose after that.

STEWART: Well, the sad man, his name is Walter. Let's listen to this clip where he talks to Tarek, the now arrested man's significant other. Her name is Zainab.

(Soundbite of movie "The Visitor")

Ms. DANAI JEKESAI GURIRA: (As Zainab) Where's Tarek?

Mr. RICHARD JENKINS: (As Walter Vale) He was arrested.

Ms. GURIRA: (As Zainab) What?

Mr. JENKINS: (As Walter Vale) Yes. In the subway.

Ms. GURIRA: (As Zainab) Arrested?

Mr. JENKINS: (As Walter Vale) It was just a misunderstanding. They said he'll be released later tonight.

Ms. GURIRA: (As Zainab) How could this happen? He knows better. He wouldn't do anything wrong.

Mr. JENKINS: (As Walter Vale) No, he didn't. He didn't. I'm sure it'll be OK.

Ms. GURIRA: (As Zainab) No, it won't be OK.

Mr. JENKINS: (As Walter Vale) No, I went down to the precinct and made a statement.

Ms. GURIRA: (As Zainab) That doesn't matter! We are illegal. We are not citizens. And when they find out they're going to - excuse me.

STEWART: This does not necessarily have a happy ending. We do not want to give it away.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: No, it doesn't. It's - yeah, it doesn't have a happy ending. It does get a little bit treacle-y toward the end. There is the sense that while McCarthy, who is an excellent director who wrote and directed this film, and also "The Station Agent," which was his first film with Peter Dinklage, that he's trying so hard, toward the end, to portray illegal - the humanity of illegal immigrants.

That you get the sense that all illegal immigrants are the sort of upstanding people that none of us seem to be - but that said, it's a really well acted-film, and I think a really well-written film. And I think Rachel's going to hate it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The next movie up is "Smart People." Another cranky professor has to learn to love after illness. The cast includes a pretty dumpy-looking Dennis Quaid as the professor.

MARTIN: Oh, really? I think he looks cute.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Thomas Haden Christensen is his derelict but emotionally-available brother. Sarah Jessica Parker is his doctor-slash-love interest and Ellen Page is his uptight daughter. Of all these actors, who really pulls it off?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Quaid and Thomas Haden Church are kind of the movie's strong points. Ellen Page has her moments, although she's basically playing a tightly-wound, Young-Republican Juno.

MARTIN: Wow!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah. Which is kind interesting to see all on its own. And Sarah Jessica Parker, you know, I have - which we'll get to in a few weeks, when I get to come out here to talk about "Sex in the City." I have major issues with "Sex in the City" and particularly with her and her character. She kind of gets the shaft here, though. She plays the girl and she gets nothing interesting to do in a movie full of people who are just, you know...

(Soundbite of snaps)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Snappy-talking at each other the whole time.

STEWART: All right. And finally I want to go to this movie "Young@Heart." Now, radio listeners should recognize it's a little "at" symbol in the title. This is a documentary about old people singing rock 'n' roll. Just tell me that they're not used as comedic props in this film.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: They are.

STEWART: Oh!

Mr. HOLLOWAY: They are, too. Yeah. And it's sad because it could be - it's a film that could be done so well. Like, these are very old people. It's a choral group in Northampton, Massachusetts. Everyone in there is 70 and up. Some of the people are as old as 92.

MARTIN: Wow.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Death is constantly present during this film. And it's really grounding. And there's some really natural comedic moments that happen that you wouldn't need a director to come in and pump it up. But the movie is filled with a handful of music videos that the director clearly made. Like, that weren't made before he started making this movie.

STEWART: Yeah.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: That seem very exploitive and it's just not done right, unfortunately.

STEWART: Let's listen to a little clip. We'll let people decide when they hear this. This is a little bit of "Young@Heart."

(Soundbite of movie "Young@Heart")

(Soundbite of song "Stayin' Alive")

YOUNG@HEART CHORUS: (Singing) Alive...

(Soundbite of song "I Will Survive")

Unidentified Chorus Member: (Singing) At first, I was afraid. I was petrified...

STEWART: This is a little painful.

MARTIN: This is awkward!

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I'll say this, this clip does not do it justice. Some of the music in the movie is - there's a version of "Fix You" by Coldplay, which - I'm not a Coldplay fan - that a gentleman sings in the concert at the end that is just incredibly good.

STEWART: So, you really like the people in the film, maybe just not the treatment of them. I'll understand the narration's a little heavy-handed.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: There's a lot of glib voice-over. It's a first-time British director. I can't recall his name at the moment, but...

STEWART: So yay for the people who are singing. Maybe boo for the director.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Boo for the people who, yeah, struggling with this.

STEWART: They're a choral group. They go out and they sing at prisons and sort of an up with people of a certain age.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, yeah. And some of the songs they sing, they do - you see them practicing "Life During Wartime" by the Talking Heads, and "Schizophrenia" by Sonic Youth. Some of it's enjoyable, but yeah, you'll leave feeling a little bit exploited.

STEWART: Daniel Holloway, our movie critic and a tremendous sport...

MARTIN: Yeah...

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Thanks for coming in.

MARTIN: You know it's nothing personal, Daniel.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I know.

MARTIN: I still trust you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: We'll see.

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