Monday, June 14, 2010

Sex and the City 2 Vs. Greenberg

Or: The Female Population Vs. The Film Critics. Sex and the City 2, released recently in the UK, has had the most atrocious reviews of any film in recent memory. Crass, embarrassing, tacky, ugly, racist, depressing – critics have really got their teeth into it (with Metacritic, which collates an average score from numerous magazines and newspaper reviews, rating it a 27 (out of 100) – one more than Garfield), and it hasn't mattered at all. Nothing, not even the Apocalypse, would have stopped Women Of A Certain Age flocking in their droves to see SATC2. I was at a cinema the other night (waiting to see Greenberg) and watched an endless parade of women in their 30s, dressed up as if going out in Manhattan (and not suburban Wimbledon), clutching strawberry daiquiris (yes, you can take alcohol into this cinema) ordered from the Sex and the City cocktail menu, go charging in to watch Carrie et al. SATC has become crass branding (even the acronym looks like an STD).

Coversely, Greenberg, the new mumblecore film from Noah Baumbach starring Ben Stiller, has had largely great reviews (76 on Metacritic). It's a sort-of comedy (maybe even a romcom), but with Stiller as an unlikeable, introvert, neurotic and possibly sightly crazy forty-something loser*. The humour is more Woody Allen than Greg Focker (or Carrie Bradshaw). In the States, popcorn-munching audiences started going to see it, and then promptly walked out mid-way. Then demanded a refund. It wasn't a usual Ben Stiller film. It wasn't funny. It wasn't gross-out. It was too depressing (delete as applicable). Audiences obviously hadn't done their homework and seen it was directed by Noah Baumbach, who made The Squid and the Whale, which although also funny, was somewhat neurotic, and dare I say it, intellectual, arty and indie.

So do professional critics, in this age of blogs and Amazon reviewers, have any sway any more? It would seem not. Now everyone's a critic, and everyone knows what they like (whether they like it or not), and whether it's good or not, doesn't matter at all. Just as long as it's fun.

(*There's a trend of lightweight actors attempting to expand their range and be taken seriously by taking 'daring' roles in films made by decent directors. The eternally over-rated Adam Sandler went arty in Punch-Drunk Love, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (audiences stayed away, though it may be the only half decent film he'll ever be in). Tom Cruise acted in Magnolia, also directed by Anderson, where Cruise shouted just as loud as he has in every film he's been in. Jim Carey gave an understated performance (for him) and possible career-best in The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir.

It's actually quite refreshing to hear Jake Gyllenhaal, star of indie cult hit Donnie Darko, express his wish to act in more lightweight films such as Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time. "I think it was about time I stopped taking myself so seriously", he says.)

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