« Department of "Huh?" | Main | A brief note on romantic comedy »

January 20, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I don't really get Wells criticism here which basically boils down to, "Longworth is cutting the film a break because she relates to it."

Erm... yeah?

I have no particular love for Longworth or Reitman. But since when is relating to something critical malfeasance?

Glenn Kenny

Believe it or not, I think that post was Wells' way of paying Longworth a compliment. As he says early in his piece, "the L.A.-residing Longworth is more culturally and generationally akin to Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman's characters than most other critics, and so her sympathetic remarks are worth considering." "Considering," there's a noncommital word. A friend of mine who was zipping around on Facebook earlier today was rather flummoxed to see Wells' status update there as reading merely "karina longworth," which musta looked weird. I can only put that snafu down to a senior moment, largely because I don't even want to think about any alternative connotation.

And I know, I know; I pay Wells too much mind and Longworth same. In this case the WTF appeal was so deep—in a not-to-be-replicated "you got chocolate in my peanut butter" sense—that I just felt the need to commemorate it, dammit!


LOOK AT HER. Portman shows her feet ON THE POSTER and in the trailer.

This better be wall to wall PortmanFeet.

Also this, Thor and that other thing are going to be melancholy to watch, now that Portman's Scorching Hotness is over (ie, she's pregnant.)

That Fuzzy Bastard

Siding with Bryce here. If anything, I'd say comparing Longworth to other reviews is a reminder of why it's nice to have at least one movie critic who is not a middle-aged man. Nothing against middle-aged men, obvs (and being one myself, I'm probably not gonna run out and see this one), but when Roger Ebert says "They don't talk like young people" and Longworth says they do, I'm inclined to think Longworth might have a point. Longworth's review is a solid piece of writing, almost MZSeitzian in its eagerness for close reading of the film in the service of larger thoughts about life'n'love, and given my preference for informed appreciation over witty dislike, I'll take it (especially as it comes bundled with some smart points about locations and character traits). Of course, Wells has made a veritable career of not noticing his own blind spots and biases, so I guess I can see how seeing someone openly identify with a movie would embarrass him, like an Exodus Ministry alum on Folsom St.

Stephen Whitty

Personally, I don't know what kind of life the reviewer referenced is living (and frankly, I'm sure I don't want to). And I happen to sort of like the film in question.

But more than that, I think it's worthwhile making the general point that, unless you read the screenwriter's final draft and were also present during the shoot, no critic REALLY knows how to indisputably parcel out the blame or credit for plot, character and dialogue among director, writer and actors.

You can make assumptions, of course, particularly if the filmmaker or screenwriter has a clear and concise body of work. And we all do that.

But beyond that, it's kind of an educated guessing game, isn't it, based on anecdote and hunch? How is Longworth absolutely sure that that all the moments she loves are the screenwriter's, and all the ones she hates are the director's? Apart, perhaps, from the fact that one person is closer to her own age and outlook than the other?

I remember not long ago there was a fairly reviled movie that came out that I panned (though not with as much reflexive fury as some, who called it misogynist). I later got an email from the pained screenwriter, who wrote that all the sexist things other folks were raking "his" script over the coals for had actually been put in by his female director.

Of course, this note from him could have been -- hard as it is to believe -- self-serving. Still, I know I always (I HOPE I always) try to be careful in assigning blame or credit in this sphere. All genuflections to the auteur theory aside, sometimes the screenwriter really IS the author of the film; sometimes the actors or who-knows-who-else have come up with that signature "moment."

And those of us who are writing opinion pieces should remember that they are precisely that -- opinions, and one hopes well-argued ones -- and not factual reportage.

Glenn Kenny

@TFB: Yeah, I'll grant you that as Longworth's stuff goes, this is one of the better-written pieces she's done that I've read in a while. Maybe she had an idea of how much was at stake. Ar ar ar. But seriously, having seen the same movie (well, I assume it was the same movie), I think her piece is not JUST a classic example of the constantly-glancing-in-the-rearview-mirror syndrome that Kent Jones described in a prior comment on her work; it's her looking in said rearview mirror and hallucinating. And again, as Robert Christgau said in another context, "I dare you to spend money to decide which of us is right."

That Fuzzy Bastard

@ Stephen: As for knowing or caring about the critic's life, I'll quote our host's oft-quoted "...and the critic must acknowledge that he is that man," and it's not necessarily irrelevant that one has to switch the gender pronoun in this case. I look to any critic for a singular point of view married to a knack for phrasemaking, and Longworth has, in this case, provided both in spades.

@ Glenn: Well, yeah, I don't think I'm even gonna plunk down even two hours of my life to watch it. But I'm not so sure that's much of a measure of its value. It's got no ambition to speak to me, and really, that's fine---the people it is speaking to are likely to themselves feel pretty bored and ignored if they're dragged to, say, Green Hornet, a movie you (and I) thought was pretty okay-or-even-enjoyable. But it does seem to be speaking to some people, and said people can actually talk about it pretty cogently, and I... I think that's just great!


@ Glenn: Looking back at it again it is entirely possible I'm misreading it. But that being said my default mode with Wells is to assume he's chastising somebody.

Terry McCarty

"Another thing one winds up noticing is all the gyrations the camera and editing seem to go through in avoiding revealing any of the demure Ms. Portman's naughty bits."

Still remembering her being sort-of-nude-but-turned-sideways in that overpretentious Wes Anderson short which was the mini-prequel to THE DARJEELING LIMITED (HOTEL CHEVALIER).


Tell us how the radial tire trade is going, Lex.

Stephen Whitty

@TFB -- no, I'm all for a singular point of view married to good style. I'm not arguing -- although I could -- whether or not that's something demonstrated here.

My only little nit to pick is when anyone who wasn't intimately involved with a production writes emphatically that such-and-such a director "rose above" (or "ruined) the script, or that a certain actor "saved" some dialogue with brilliant improvisations.

We can all make guesses based on style, track records, etc but I think it's smarter to be careful.


Shirley Stoler. Nice!


Or you could say that film blogger sociopaths love GREENBERG because...


I liked THE COMPANY MEN more than you did, Glenn. I have to admit, early on, I was thinking, "Okay, this is reminding me of why I soured on John Wells' TV shows; it feels more like he's connecting the dots than creating a compelling drama". Gradually, however, it did become very compelling drama for me; maybe predictable, as you say, but well made.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad