The best dullest film I have seen is 1981’s My Dinner with Andre, which literally involves a dinner conversation between two people. (In 1996, Christopher Guest poked fun at the film by creating plastic “action figures” to act out the scenes in his mockumentary, Waiting for Guffman.) Although My Dinner with Andre is just a conversation at a fine dining restaurant, some of the dialogue ends up being more captivating than that in Raiders of the Lost Ark of the same year.
In the overlooked indie flick of 2008, The Visitor, the lead actor played by Richard Jenkins is as dull as they get, yet with time and patience, you will see the most dramatic transformation of a human on screen since John Wayne’s immaculate epiphany in The Searchers (1956). If you haven’t seen The Searchers, what about notorious Brad Pitt’s performance in A River Runs through It (1992) or Meet Joe Black (1998)? Both involve the most boring individual on film who happens to work his magic with the audience, receive reconciliation, and then become the most beloved transformed figures on earth.
The dull in The Visitor is Jenkins’ Walter Vale, a college professor at NYU, who intentionally stays away from social conventions and tries to hide the recent death of his wife. On his way to his secondary apartment in New York, he finds two uninvited guests: Tarek Khalil, a charming djembe drum player from Syria and his girlfriend, Zainab, from the Ivory Coast. Both are illegal immigrants who successfully bypassed the system. Instead of kicking them out, Vale invites a needed friendship into his life.
Sadly, it is America that does the “kicking out” as Tarek is incarcerated for unjust reasons. Both Walter and Zainab are at a loss both lawfully and emotionally. Here is a film that subtly tackles our immigration process but also the coalition of different nationalities within America.
Walter Vale is as dull as a 5-inch law book, but his heart is in the right place. Regardless of America’s tactics, he places friendship above the law, and his will outshines his personality.
An overlooked gem!
Please let me know if you have seen it 🙂