Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome Home...Richard Jenkins

The 2009 Academy Awards used a different format this year when it came to presenting awards to Best Male and Female actors in supporting and lead roles. Five previous winners came up and read something about the nominees and then the presenters said something personal about each of the actors. Personally, I thought it was a welcome change. I’m not a big fan these superstars getting together five or six times over the course of a couple of months to celebrate themselves, but it was nice to see them communicate on a smaller, more intimate level. But who cares about all that?

I want to focus on one nominee in particular – Richard Jenkins. Who the hell is that?! You may not know the name, but you know the face. Immediately after hearing Adrian Brody say, “I’m not a fan of being googled, but if you google the resume of Richard Jenkins you’ll scroll across a career that includes 60 films over the last 25 years” --Woah! Seriously, who is this guy?-- I thought back to the first time I was aware of Richard Jenkins and the earliest I could come up with was 1998’s There’s Something About Mary (he played the psychiatrist in the beginning). I took Brody’s advice and googled/IMDB'd Richard Jenkins and I found out he had been in more films earlier in his career that I didn’t remember him in, and many later in his career that I easily recognized him in. Films like StepBrothers, Me, Myself, and Irene, and Fun with Dick and Jane (he was also in Six Feet Under, but I have yet to watch an episode). And The Visitor, the film for which Jenkins was nominated, is Jenkins’ homecoming 20 plus years into his career.

Watch the trailer and you’ll understand what this film is about. And once you do, know this: Richard Jenkins is this film. In much the same way all the nominated actors carried their films – large or small – Richard Jenkins carries this little engine that could all the way to the top of the mountain. Even though we watch Walter (Jenkins) as he connects with and learns from Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), what we’re really watching is Jenkins’ subtle genius, and what we’re really captivated by is his overlooked talent. We find out everything we need to know about Walter Vale – his successes, his struggles, and his hopes – by watching Jenkins act.

For me this was an amazing film about people. Look, I'll be honest, I know this movie is a little predicatable or formulaic when it comes to changing the life of a gloomy widower. There may not be much dialogue, but a lot is said. Maybe not much happens, but you never feel worn down or like the movie is slow. In fact the final scene(s) will leave you feeling pumped like a sports flick. The Visitor is a simple drama that simply delights. I enjoyed all 100minutes of this film, and I cannot say it enough - it was because of Richard Jenkins. But does that mean he deserved the Academy Award?

Jenkins never stood a chance at actually taking the Oscar home with him - that was always reserved for Rourke or Penn – but he deserves the recognition and praise just the same. So next time someone asks “Who is Richard Jenkins?” make sure you say to them, “He’s a pimp." And that's the thing about a pimp - you may not know his name, but you always respect the game. That is who Richard Jenkins is. Rent this movie and respect the technique! -- 4 Reels out of 5

No comments: