Sunday, November 15, 2009

Critical acclaim

Do you take much notice of film reviews? The average film-goer doesn't. Nowadays word of mouth is the strongest factor in the box-office success or failure of a film.

If you want to get a real feel for the content and quality of a film you should really talk to a film distributor, not a film reviewer. You see, a successful distributor must always put aside personal opinion and think only of the film's target audience.

Have you ever read a scathing review of a rom com and then noticed that the reviewer was a 50 year old man? How about a review of an action-packed movie about giant transforming robots written by a 40 year old woman whose favourite film is "Casablanca". It would be silly to take any notice of such reviews, and the general public is not silly.

So how about the latest Australian film "The Boys Are Back"? Here are two reviews. Would you like to see the film now?

I saw this film at an industry screening, and here's what I saw:

One man in his late forties, a hardened businessman, crying so passionately that he was unable to hold a conversation following the screening.

A woman in her forties who proclaimed loudly to all around her (and the director was present at the screening) "This is the worst film I have ever seen."

Now do you see how difficult it is to properly review a film? A distributor, however, would have absolutely no problem with this situation. He/she would probably realise that the target audience for this film is a certain type of middle-aged male. Then he/she would start thinking of how publicity and advertising can target this quadrant, he/she might also keep in mind that it's women who usually make the decision about which film to see, which complicates the marketing of this movie.

My own personal opinion about the film? My initial gut reaction as the film ended? I felt very resentful and sarcastic. Here was a film which I had expected to be aimed solely at me as target audience, the trailer made it look like a type of chick flick, and yet it made me seethe with rage. Then I noticed the man who was weeping, and I realised that my personal opinion was not as important as the realisation that I was simply not the target audience for this film.

As "The Boys Are Back" begins, we read the line "inspired by a true story." Throughout the film I kept waiting for something momentous to occur, that elusive something which would astonish me and make me say "Wow, and this is based on true events!!! Unbelievable! How inspiring!" But nothing, nothing happened......a man manages to care for his two sons following the death of his wife....was THAT IT??? Is that the "true story"??? That's when I started talking sarcastically to myself "Stop the press, read the headline, man is able to parent his children, all by himself." Then I started talking to the film's protagonist in my head "Erin Brockovich looked after THREE children, without an education, without a fancy-shmancy sports journalist's job, without a loving mother-in-law who lived up the street...what did you do buster? HUH??? Did YOU then discover a huge cancer-causing cover-up??? No. You didn't. Didja????"

But this film makes men openly weep in cinemas, truly it does. That man I saw at the screening was the first of many who have been moved by this film. It would be unforgivable to discount the ability this film has to touch its target audience, and I so wish that film reviewers might be able to take a step back from their own world of high-brow, film-as-art philosophy and watch the film with an audience in a packed cinema on a Saturday night. Or better still, watch the FACES of the audience members as they LEAVE the cinema after the film has ended. If a film manages to move grown men to tears then it's a great film, end.of.story.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'd been wondering the exact same thing, who is the film's target audience, because I seem to see a trailer every time I watch something on commercial TV, suggesting that I am the target. But I also have similar feelings about the storyline, as in, wow, a man takes responsibility, that's definitely worth making a movie! I usually look to the internet for reviews if I'm not sure whether to see a film, and especially to sites I trust to share my interests like Thanks to you, I'm going to skip seeing this one at the cinema.

Stomper Girl said...

Eleanor, you are fantastic and this is such a good post! This is why when Margaret and David AGREE I presume I'll like the movie (unless it's out of my -very limited- genre range. And also why I'll still see a film I'm interested in even if Melbourne reviewer Jim Schembri cans it.

kim at allconsuming said...

God I love it when you get narky.

I was all uppity about this movie too and was reading the review/profile piece on it and the guy's book it's based on in one of the weekend papers the other day.

The only thing that redeemed it for me was what the dad who wrote the book was saying about parenting. But the movie? I'm avoiding it because you're reaction? Exactly what mine would be. Just with a lot more swearing.

Mary said...

For me I wanted to see it because it was filmed where my mum and sister live.

Now I want to see it because this is such an incisive post and anything that makes grown men cry is fine by me..

Jeanette said...


Yep, anything that makes grown up men cry is worthwile.....

Take care

Tania said...

Over the weekend I had a startlingly unusual opportunity to visit the cinema TWICE. I did not see The Boys Are Back. This is because I reckon the marketing is a bit skewiff. It looks like a chick flick. The Mr thought it looked like a chick flick. There was an absolute chick flick and a borderline chickish flick with which to persecute the Mr and he was a whole lot more excited about those. No matter that a review I read about The Boys Are Back said "Like a chick flick, only for men."