Richard Jenkins. Oh yeah, that guy. From character actor to leading role, Richard Jenkins has become the best breakout star this year in film, and the best part about it, he's 61! And how about topping that with an Oscar nomination hopefully! In April, Jenkins's first leading role film, The Visitor, a small indie film, premiered to a whopping theater count of 4. Since then, The Visitor started to get noticed (mostly by word of mouth), started to play in more and more theaters, and soon, The Visitor became that little indie movie that everybody loves. Still in theaters after 21 weeks, The Visitor has grossed nearly $10 million in the box office. Wow! And not only that, but Jenkins started to gain a lot of Oscar buzz for his role as Walter Vale, the bland professor who travels back to his old apartment in New York City only to find a young couple, who turn out to be illegal immigrants, living in his apartment, and later sparking a close friendship with them.
Jenkins delievers a master class in acting, and his role in The Visitor has been the most compelling role so far this year. Jenkins 100% deserves an Oscar nomination this year, though he will be going up against big celebrity names like: Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road), Benicio Del Toro (Che), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), and Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). With The Visitor being premiered in April, many Visitor fans worry it won't get recognized at the Oscars this year. But Overture Films, The Visitor's distributor, will be releasing the film on dvd and blu-ray right in the middle of Oscar season in October, as well as a heavy campaign for Richard Jenkins for Best Lead Actor and Hiam Abbass for Best Supporting Actress. They really should push for Haaz Sleiman for Best Supporting Actor too... With the DVD coming out in October, it gives a chance for the Oscar voters to see it without having to sort through all the other DVDs that they get in December/January, and maybe this way, they will see just how brilliant Richard Jenkins is in The Visitor.
Also, I want to bring up the case of Julie Christie's nomination from last year. Away From Her, which was released in May 2007, got 2 nominations at the Oscars, including Best Lead Actress for Julie Christie. And if you think about it, Christie and Jenkins's situations are extremely similar. 1) Both films were released towards the first half of the year (April/May). 2) Both films feature older characters in the lead role. 3) Both films are written and directed by actors. 4) Both were surprise box office indie gems (With The Visitor with the edge, Away From Her is a Canadian film, and it got a good portion of it's box office dollars internationally...) 5) Both films featured the lead characters going through a [major] change in life. 6) Both lead roles earned rave reviews from both movie critics and moviegoers...
Also, with Jenkins's name being out there now and the fear that he will be forgotten, he recently starred alongside Will Ferrell, Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly, and Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen in Step Brothers, which has a total right now of $96 million in the box office. And though I thought the movie sucked, I thoroughly enjoyed Jenkins and Steenburgen's roles in the film, but as for the rest of the film, blah... They saved part of the film though... Jenkins also stars alongside Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and J.K. Simmons in The Coen Brother's highly-anticipated Burn After Reading which comes out in 2 weeks, though has been playing at film festivals recently.
Its outstanding peformances like Jenkins in The Visitor that need to be recognized more. I really hope that he can still get a nomination come Oscar voting time because he truly deserves that nomination!
*Remember, if you still haven't seen The Visitor yet in the theaters, it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray October 7.