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Copyright 1999-2002 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Bams' review of
The Visit


The Visit (2001)
Rated R; running time 107 minutes
Studio: Urbanworld Films
Genre: Drama
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Jordan Walker Pearlman (based on the play by Kosmond Russell)
Directed by: Jordan Walker Pearlman
Cast: Hill Harper, Obba Babatunde, Billy Dee Williams, Rae Dawn Chong, Marla Gibbs, Phylicia Rashad, Talia Shire, David Clennon, Tim DeZarn, Glynn Turman

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2001

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

I'll forgo my usual pre-review aside, and cut to the chase: go see The Visit. It's well worth the trip.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Alex Waters (Hill Harper) is an Angry Black Man. Sentenced for twenty-five years - or life - for a crime he insists he did not commit, Alex expresses his rage and hostility to his counselor, Dr. Coles (Phylicia Rashad), and to the Parole Board members (Talia Shire, David Clennon, Tim DeZarn, Glynn Turman) who hold his life in their hands. But most of his anger is reserved for his brother Tony (Obba Babatunde), who first left Alex when Tony went off to college when they were younger - and who abandoned Alex in prison for ten months before visiting him for the first time.

Even in his anger, Alex needs Tony's help. He asks Tony to convince their loving mother Lois (Marla Gibbs) and seemingly unfeeling father Henry (Billy Dee Williams) to come visit him in prison so that Alex can tell his parents some disturbing news. And Tony has a bit of news for Alex, in the person of Alex's childhood friend Felicia McDonald (Rae Dawn Chong), who may have even more in common with Alex now that he's in prison, than she did when he was free.

I've had the screener tape for this movie for months now, waiting for the right moment when I wasn't too busy to watch it. When I think of all the hours I wasted instead of watching this brilliant film, I could kick myself.

No histrionics here; The Visit whispers where lesser films might shout, yet its message is heard just as clearly. And its messengers amaze; "Visit" was an extraordinary blend of talented cast and top-notch crew members, combining to work their magic in a way that completely floored me. Granted, I've come to expect solid performances from Obba Babatunde ("Tony") and Hill Harper ("Alex"), and they both delivered, in spades. Babatunde's performance improved over the span of the movie, and his stirring oration in the climax, touched me. Likewise, Harper made his mark as Alex, proving that he's not just another pretty face (in many scenes, literally).

But if you had told me that Rae Dawn Chong ("Felicia"), Marla Gibbs ("Lois"), and Phylicia Rashad ("Dr. Coles"), would equally have me sitting up and taking notice, I might've chuckled under my breath. It's not that the trio is void of talent; it's just that their previous works (Gibbs and Rashad, primarily in TV comedies; Chong, in lighter movie fare) would seem to preclude any notion that they could handle the more demanding roles they had in The Visit.

And the absolute show stopper was Billy Dee Williams. Billy Dee "Lando Kalrissian" Williams. Billy Dee "Colt45" Williams. Billy Dee "Don't Let The Smooth Taste Fool Ya" Williams. Yes, that Billy Dee. If I had to single out one performance from this remarkable ensemble, his would stand head-and-shoulders above the rest; it resonated in very real ways for me, some of which I'll go through in the "Black Factor" below. Suffice it to say, I owe you a sincere apology, Mr. Williams; I didn't know you had it like that.

The delights of The Visit extend well beyond the well-gelled cast. Writer/director/producer Jordan Walker Pearlman's soulful feel for this story was excellently realized in his realistic dialogue, and in his collaboration with cinematographer John Demps; some of Demp's shots (especially the dream sequences; especially the sequence with Alex and his father) were simply breathtaking. Though my husband - a Corrections Officer - took Issue with some of the scenes involving Alex and the prison guards, those technical issues were a minor glitch on the radar. Unless you're somehow involved in the Corrections industry, you probably won't even notice.

Add to this an achingly beautiful musical score (by Ramsey Lewis, among five others), something-more-than-a-cameo appearances by Talia Shire, David Clennon, Tim DeZarn, and Glynn Turman as Parole Board members, and a relevant, true story told without compromise - and you'll understand why I continue to kick myself for letting The Visit languish on my video shelf for far too long. Don't make the mistake I made; even if you're not generally of the Art Flick persuasion, check out The Visit when it's widely released on Friday, April 20. I'm sure Crocodile Dundee 3 can wait.

THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]

Bear with me while I address a segment of the non-monolithic Black community that's only now starting to be addressed in mainstream films: the upwardly mobile, increasingly successful Black family; and its patriarchal representative in The Visit, father Henry Waters.

I took Henry's feelings of betrayal (in Alex's "allowing" himself to be incarcerated) to heart, so much so that I felt compelled to stop the tape and discuss Henry's Issues with my husband. Call it luck, call it fortune, call it a blessing - call it what you want, but my husband and I find ourselves in a position where our sons have come through the gauntlet that is Young Black Manhood, and have passed through relatively unscathed (less rare now than it may have been in the past, but even in a smallish town like Lansing, it still counts as at least a minor accomplishment). I have long taken the hard stance that I'll spend a fortune to send them to college, or help them become and stay gainfully employed - but I won't spend a penny to get them out of jail. In watching Henry, in hearing his anger and lack of compassion for Alex's plight (justified or not; that's not the point for now), I was taken aback, seeing the logical conclusion, in their pain and anger, to my own unbendable will. It definitely made me at least contemplate my rigid attitude; my failure to easily forgive human weakness.

It unnerved me, to have my mirror image hit me like that. And even the smooth looks of a Billy Dee, couldn't buffer that shock. But that The Visit could evoke such a Just go see it, ok?

Full of surprisingly powerful, yet understated, performances (in front of and behind the camera), The Visit tells a powerful tale of redemption and the freedom that comes from forgiveness - especially forgiveness of self. If you care anything about quality Black cinema - beyond the lip service all-too often paid by so many of us (y'all know who we are) - step out of the cookie-cutter flick line, and go pay this one a "Visit".



Free your soul; the rest will follow...

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2001
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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The Visit | Memento

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