The Visit

Rather than simply film Kosmond Russell's award-winning play, first-time feature director Jordan Walker-Pearlman made a few improvements. Unfortunately, the result is so overloaded with extra characters, tangled story lines, dance numbers, fantasies and flashbacks that the once-simple plot feels puffed-up and irritatingly self-important....read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Rather than simply film Kosmond Russell's award-winning play, first-time

feature director Jordan Walker-Pearlman made a few improvements.

Unfortunately, the result is so overloaded with extra characters, tangled

story lines, dance numbers, fantasies and flashbacks that the once-simple plot

feels puffed-up and irritatingly self-important. And that's too bad, because

the film includes fine performances and some very inventive camerawork from

cinematographer John Ndiaga Demp. But it lacks the very first thing a director

should provide: direction. Alex Waters (Hill Harper) has been sentenced to 25

years in California's Union Grove State Penitentiary for a rape he swears he

didn't commit. He's also HIV+, and unless he's granted parole at his upcoming

hearing, he faces the prospect of dying behind prison walls, within earshot of

the nearby passing trains that have come to symbolize freedom. Alex, however,

disregards the prison psychiatrist's (Phylicia Rashad) advice and remains

unrepentant, asocial and understandably angry, an attitude that won't go over

well with the parole board. What they can't see — Alex's inner development — becomes clear to us through a series of emotionally charged

visits, first from his successful older brother, Tony (Obba Babatunde), then

his parents (Marla Gibbs and Billy Dee Williams) then finally the one person

who might turn his life around, recovering crack addict and incest survivor

Felicia MacDonald (Rae Dawn Chong), whom Alex once loved. In addition to all

the extraneous narrative devices — none of which add much to the plot

— it's clear that Walker-Pearlman encouraged his cast to improvise around

Russell's dialogue and all too often resorts to abrupt fade-outs to get his

desperate actors out of dead-end scenes. There are flashes of inspiration, and

it's unfair to dismiss Walker-Pearlman out of hand. He's clearly a talent in

the raw, but that talent remains buried under a mountain of over-ambition and

poor judgement.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Rather than simply film Kosmond Russell's award-winning play, first-time feature director Jordan Walker-Pearlman made a few improvements. Unfortunately, the result is so overloaded with extra characters, tangled story lines, dan… (more)

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