My wife and I were looking for some light comic relief today, and decided to go see This Means War (the new action/romcom hybrid starring Reese Witherspoon, the young Captain Kirk, and an English actor largely unknown in the US, Tom Hardy), despite our both having seen some REALLY strongly negative reviews. Something about the concept of the film drew us, and we went in without overly high expectations.
I am so glad we did, because it turned out to be exactly what Reese Witherspoon said it was in an interview I heard-----a witty, fast-paced, cleverly constructed hybrid that winks at the audience at every single step, inviting discerning filmgoers to let their hair down and enjoy a well constructed and (most important) unpretentious romp.
Which is why I am diverging from my usual Austenian fare to vent my spleen at the herd of top critics who have all apparently scared each other into conformity, as they all frantically and snobbishly attempt to trample this movie into box office oblivion. There are films which are fascinating in a metacritical sense, i.e., where it is worth looking at the critical response to a film more for what it says about the critics than about the film itself.
I have a theory that accounts for the huge discrepancy between critical reaction to this particular film (which accounted, I think, for the theater being virtually empty on this the first weekend out in the world) and audience reaction. I strongly suspect that the egos of some of these snobs who pass for knowledgeable film critics were injured by the film's clever mockery and send-up of phony talk about the art of Gustav Klimt, and also about the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
I think that these critics heard themselves being sent up, and they did not like it one single bit, and so they took their revenge by misrepresenting this film as being stupid, heavy-handed, mind-numbing, etc---when actually I was astounded to learn just now that the film was 2 hours in length-I had the impression leaving the theater that it was about 90 minutes. That says a lot about the film, as I can't count the number of romcoms I have seen where each minute seemed an eternity--I am not an easy mark for such films, but this one charmed me throughout.
And what makes the Hitchcock and Klimt send-up so much more satisfying was that this film, beneath the glitzy hi-tech surface, actually is kinda old school in a sneaky way--it makes a host of sly references to a variety of the cliches of the modern romcom and action film, and shows that the screenwriters were very well aware of the genres they were so cleverly mixing and matching.
And in particular, the explicit allusion to Hitchcock is actually not a diss of Hitchcock at all, it is an homage, as this film both acknowledges that it is not high art, but also dares to suggest that it is worthy of being just a cut below Hitchcock's own unique ability to achieve high art while also making films that unsophisticated filmgoers looking for some suspense and romance could also enjoy.
Anyone who regularly reads in this blog knows that I take literature (and also film) very seriously, and I know the difference between high art and commercial art in the manner in which stories are told. So I do not use the word "snob" lightly in my critique on film critics, because I've been accused of being a snob many times. But in this case, the attacks on This Means War are so mean-spirited, so vicious, that I realized that for these critics, having to watch a film that dares to cleverly mock their critical bona fides was apparently an act of war calling for all out attack.
The whole point of this rant, then, is that if you want to watch a film that moves at a fast but not too-fast tempo, that is witty and unpretentious, and will have you smiling more often than not during it, then go see This Means War, and ignore all those snobs who tried so hard to talk you out of it!
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P.S.: For Janeites, there is one Austenian trivia point---if you see the film and figure out what I mean, please post a comment here and tell about it! Otherwise, I will eventually do that myself.
Editors' Weekly Round-up August 28, 2016
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