There are so many reasons why The Visit shouldn’t be a good movie. It relies heavily on the appeal of child actors, it’s shot documentary, found-footage style, and it was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, a man who arguably hasn’t made a decent movie in 11 years. (Yeah, I liked The Village. There goes my credibility.)
But The Visit is somehow not only a good movie; it’s an exceptional one that stands out from similar stories for its emotional authenticity and the respect it has for its characters.
The Visit‘s main character is 15-year-old film buff Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge), who is working on a documentary about her recently-divorced mother, Paula (Kathryn Hahn). Paula is estranged from her parents but eventually decides that they should meet Rebecca and her younger brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). The brother and sister are sent to spend a week at Nana and Pop-Pop’s house—a visit that Rebecca decides to chronicle for her movie.
Obviously, shit does not go as planned.
I can think of at least one other scary movie about an ambitious female director (cough cough Blair Witch); but, unlike that film, The Visit never implies that Rebecca’s ambition is somehow responsible for the terrible events that ensue. She’s precocious and elitist like any 15-year-old filmmaker, but she’s never vilified.
I was similarly surprised by the amount of respect The Visit gives Paula. If you want an example of how bad a maternal role like that can be, look at any of the movies Judy Greer starred in this summer. But instead of a weepy throwaway part, Shyamalan has written a woman that’s funny, flawed, and believable. As much as Paula adores her children, she also has her own life, and it was honestly shocking to see a movie not condemning a mother for acting like a human first and a parental unit second.
So no, The Visit didn’t offend me as a feminist, but that was just a bonus—it’s also funny (albeit in a “Dad Joke” kind of way), well-paced, terrifying, gross, and self-aware enough to poke fun at film cliches and Shyamalan’s other movies.
I don’t want to say too much about Grandma and Grandpa themselves, but Deanna Dunagan as Nana is a fucking force of nature, and the film’s script capitalizes perfectly on our fear of aging and the elderly. It’s rare that a movie can make me both jump out of my seat and quietly ponder my inevitable descent into infirmity, but there you have it.
I guess this is the hill I’ll die on, then. The Visit is a great movie; come at me, bros.
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