The Visit Movie Review

Earnest, heartfelt, and soul-searching. These are qualities that are great to see in a film. It's too bad that those qualities don't necessarily mean the film will be any good.

The Visit is a prime example of a movie that has clearly been agonized over and loved, but to virtually no ultimate effect; writer/director/producer Jordan Walker Pearlman is so obviously enamored with the material he can't see the forest for the trees. Adapted from a play, The Visit still has that boxed-in feeling, with virtually all of the action taking place in the visiting room of the prison where Alex (Hill Harper) is incarcerated. Wrongly so, we are led to believe.

A tragically sad tale of woe, The Visit is so overwrought it's hard to know where to start explaining it. Not only is Alex in prison for a rape he claims he didn't commit, he's abused by the inmates, his father (Billy Dee Williams) hates him, and the parole board won't hear his pleas. And he's got AIDS. The only one who'll visit besides his parents and brother (Obba Babatundé) is an old childhood friend (Rae Dawn Chong), a recovering crack addict/whore/incest survivor who wants to help Alex put his life together again. And she has a crippled son.

Folks, it doesn't get much sadder than this, and faster than you can say "Can I get an amen!?" (no, seriously, that's in the movie), Pearlman has us begging for the message of hope that must be found somewhere among all this melancholy. If it's there, I never found it, unless presenting a dying prison inmate to your son as some kind of surrogate father is a hopeful message. But that's not a memory I'd exactly cherish from my youth -- and sure enough, The Visit lost my attention after 40 minutes.

Sadly, The Visit isn't even much fun to watch. Pearlman clearly has a lot to learn about directing movies. The production is alternately rough and pedestrian, yanking you in and out of the action through tired fades, dream sequences, and music cues. Also of note is the jazz and soul soundtrack, which sounds really good -- but simply doesn't fit what's going on in the film. You know, I love Rae Dawn and Billy Dee as much as the next guy, but I don't want to wade through two hours of badly made melodrama just to get a peek at 'em.

Oh, Billy Dee!


The Visit Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2000


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