The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"The Visit" tells the story of a 32-year-old prison inmate, up for parole, dying of AIDS, trying to come to terms with his past. In a series of prison visits with his parents, his brother, a prison psychiatrist and a woman who was his childhood friend, he moves slowly from anger to acceptance--he becomes a better person.
This outline sounds perhaps too pious to be absorbing, and the final scenes lay on the message a little thick. But "The Visit" contains some effective performances, not least from Hill Harper as Alex, the hero. I remembered him from "Loving Jezebel" and from a supporting role in "He Got Game," but wasn't prepared for the depth here; this is a performance announcing that Harper is to be taken seriously. Another surprise comes from Billy Dee Williams; we think of him as a traditional leading man, but here he is as a proud, angry, unyielding father--an authority figure who takes it as a personal affront that his son has gone wrong.
But has he gone wrong? Alex is doing 25 years for a rape he says he didn't commit. His mother (Marla Gibbs) believes him. His father remembers that Alex stole from them, lied to them, was a junkie and a thief, and thinks him capable of anything. Alex's brother Tony (Obba Babatunde), well-dressed, successful, mirrors the father's attitudes; it diminishes them to have a prisoner in the family.
The movie doesn't crank up the volume with violence and jailhouse cliches, but focuses on this person and his possibilities for change. The key law enforcement officials are not sadistic guards or authoritarian wardens, but people who listen. Phylicia Rashad plays the psychiatrist, trying to lead him past denial into acceptance, and there are several scenes involving a parole board that are driven by insight, not the requirements of the drama. The board members, led by Talia Shire, discuss his case, express their doubts, get mad at one another, seem real.
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