The Visitor 

The Station Agent's writer-director, Tom McCarthy, follows up that surprise success with another precious, whimsical tale of an unlikely threesome. This time, though, he gets political, making a liberal-guilt-trip movie about Western ignorance of Third World culture. When recently widowed Connecticut economics professor Walter Vale (the excellent character actor Richard Jenkins in an unfortunately fussy, mannered performance) returns to his long-untended Manhattan apartment, he finds it occupied by a young Syrian emigré, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira), who've been swindled into thinking that the place is theirs. In the first of several dastardly turns toward the pious, Walter lets his unexpected guests stay on. In return, Tarek teaches him how to play the African drum, and the grieving Walter starts to get his groove back. Then the ugly face of post-9/11 racial profiling comes along, landing the undocumented Tarek in a government detention center and spurring Walter's outrage that such things can happen in the supposed land of the free. (Who knew?) Nothing if not an equal-opportunity patronizer, McCarthy loads up the rest of the film with examples of Muslim-on-Muslim discrimination and self-consciously ironic flashes of pro-liberty propaganda. He undoubtedly means well, but he has made one of those incredibly naïve movies that give liberals a bad name.

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