1. The Visitor
Richard Jenkins stars as Walter Vale (which Loki tells me is a significant name, although he hasn't explained that yet), a disconnected, insular Economics professor who teaches one class and pretends to work on his book. When he goes to present a paper he "co-authored" (i.e., read) in NYC, he finds that a young couple, Tarek and Zainab, has moved into his apartment - a con man rented it to them.
Maybe it's his extreme loneliness, maybe he just thinks that Tarek (played by Haaz Sleiman) is incredibly hot, which is what I kept thinking every time he was on screen, but Walter insists that the couple stay.
Tarek is a big bowl of life, teaching Walter how to play the dhimmi, taking him out to jazz clubs, practicing his drums in his underwear, whereas Zainab, played by Danai Gurira, seems uptight and reserved; we soon find out that she is justified in her cautious ways, because she and Tarek are in the United States illegally.
Then we enter the Orwellian world of INS, where subcontractors house illegal aliens in a warehouse, where posters declare that immigrants are the backbone of America, etc. Walter, in his detached way, hires an immigration attorney and politely navigates his way through the bureaucracy. Tarek tries to keep his spirits up, but INS keeps moving people and he's scared; poor Zainab can't even take the risk of going to see him. Then Tarek's mother shows up, and she and Walter connect, but ultimately, Tarek gets deported and Mouna, Tarek's mother, goes back to Syria to be with him, knowing that she will not come back.
Great performances all around. Jenkins has been a Hey It's That Guy for years; I didn't know his name until Six Feet Under. Danai Gurira blew me away; Haaz Sleiman is charming as hell. I cried a couple of times during the movie, because I'm a big movie crier, but it also will always astonish me how much our fates rest on where we happen to be born. It's not fair, as Walter yells; it seems like such a childish thing to say, but it's the absolute truth. It's not fair, and it will probably never be fair.
2. Dan In Real Life
I should preface this by saying that I forgot that Starz was having a free preview this weekend, so I found myself tuning in just because it was on Sunday afternoon.
Poor, sad Dan. His wife died and left behind 3 perfectly adorable daughters, who are all adorable in their own perfectly flawed ways. His big fun family gets together in their big beach house, and do adorable things like compete for who gets to the dishes, boys against girls, winner is the gender that finishes the crossword puzzle first. They have talent shows and play touch football, and somehow manage to tolerate Dane Cook. I hate everything about this family, purely out of bitterness and resentment that my own family would look at me like I sprouted 2 additional heads if I suggested we put on a talent show at a family reunion. If I suggested we have a family reunion, they would look at me like it was only 1 additional head. I'm a total dork, so I would love to have a family that did these activities, hence the bitterness.
Dan meets Juliette Binoche when his mother sends him out to get the papers, and he's charmed by her (of course, who wouldn't be?) and tells her his whole life story, and somehow, she is charmed by him even though he strikes me as your perfect NiceGuy(tm), and is clearly feeling very sorry for himself. Which is fine, but it's not something you dump on a gorgeous, lively woman you just met. Lucky for Dan, Marie (Juliette Binoche) is insane and is actually dating his brother Dane Cook. Of course Dane and Marie aren't right for each other, they aren't even the same species. Marie ends up with Dan, inexplicably over her love for the sad sack. Clearly, she's still insane.