Jeremy’s Review: Hernán Guerschuny’s ‘The Film Critic’ Is a Satisfying Meta French New Wave Tribute


Much in the same way that the last film I reviewed, Justin Reardon‘s Playing It Cool (read review here), took on its subject in a manner that can only be described as meta, Hernán Guerschuny takes a similar concept and flips it.It seems that the film world is now fertile ground for movies (frankly none of them hold a candle to Altman‘s The Player). So let’s see how this one shakes out…

Víctor (Rafael Spregelburd) in THE FILM CRITIC. Courtesy of Music Box Films

Instead of screenwriter incapable of falling in love being commissioned to write a romantic comedy, we get a famous, surly film critic, Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) who is notorious for trashing every movie he sees. Day after day, he goes with a set of other critics to watch unoriginal movies that have no soul (according to him). They go to the same coffee shop afterwards to discuss further the films they have seen and then adjourn to write their respective reviews. Tellez is in an interesting place in his personal, perhaps explaining his bitterness. He has just broken up with his special ladyfriend and is in desperate need of a new apartment as the building he’s living in is undergoing construction and the hammering is driving him crazy. Add to it that his newspaper editor is on his case about how he trashes every movie and is threatening to rewrite his reviews to make the distributors happier with them, he’s got a lot on his plate. And is doesn’t get any less complicated when Sofia (the stunning Dolores Fonzi) enters his life, at first hating one another, then…falling for one another.

The Film Critic - 1

But can it work? She, who is at times is affectionate and others aloof and secretive clashes with his minimalist existence, filled by films and conversation and an unhealthy obsession with the women he’s seen in classic films (namely Jean Seberg in Godard‘s À bout de souffle) and using them as his standard of measure. Clearly something needs to give. But when Tellez needs some extra cash, he ventures into territory in the same vein as the likes of Godard,Truffaut and all of the other Cahiers du Cinema critics did back in the late 50s – making their own films, although in Tellez’s case, he only takes an assignment to write a script. The final complication is that he ends up writing his own life and specifically focusing on his relationship with Sofia, all of which she is unaware.Like Belmondo‘s Michel Poiccard, his goose is cooked. And worst of all…the movie sucks.

The Film Critic - 3

I really enjoyed this film. Where it succeeds, however, it also kind of fails. The familiar cliches that the Tellez character rants against appear in an ironic way in his own story, but they aren’t reconciled in a satisfying way, not turning them enough on their head to make a statement about them. Despite that, however, Guerschuny weaves an interesting enough tale to keep the viewer engaged. In the latter part of the second act and into the third act, the film shifts gears, somewhat jarringly, into unexpected territory in a side plot involving a disgruntled director (Ignacio Rogers) taking revenge for a bad review that Tellez wrote of his film. Somewhat out of place, the film quickly rights itself and gets back on its proper trajectory with somewhat surprising results. Dolores Fonzi is really quite angelic in this film and is expertly cast in the mysterious role of Sofia. Likewise, Spregelburd fits his role as the bearded, overly pretentious film critic to a T. They have wonderful chemistry together on screen as well.

The Film Critic - 2

The Film Critic‘s successes may be varied, but it is still a worthwhile viewing. As someone who obviously reviews movies, it’s interesting to see a role like that woven into a film. Guerschuny shows a deft touch for a first-time writer/director and I hope to see more films from him in the future, especially as the South American film scene sis beginning to make a name for itself.

The Film Critic opens in theaters and hits VOD today.


Jeremy’s Review: Justin Reardon’s “Playing It Cool” Holds a Mirror Up to the Rom-Com Genre with Varied Success

Playing It Cool_PosterI’ve stated this before a few times, but romantic comedies aren’t traditionally films that I will watch. Most of them are ill-conceived and rife with so many cliches that are so bad they make me want to punch my own face. From time to time, some stand out and rise above the all-too familiar trappings of being a romantic comedy (Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything is a perfect example) and that’s just what Justin Reardon‘s Playing It Cool aims to do. The film is what essentially is a meta-romantic comedy, think the Scream of the romantic comedy genre. But is it successful? Playing It Cool_Still01

The narrator and protagonist (played by Chris Evans) is a screenwriter hired to write…a romantic comedy (how meta is that)! The problem is he’s never been in love, and in fact has done everything he can to avoid it, so he is struggling to find his story and meet his deadline despite pleas from his agent (played by Evans‘s Avengers co-star Anthony Mackie). When the narrator (no, he doesn’t have a real name in the film) gets dragged to a charity benefit with his friend Scott (Topher Grace), he meets Her (she, too, has no name but is played by the exquisite Michelle Monaghan) and as would happen in your standard rom-com, they share a moment or at least the narrator thinks so. After they part, he can’t stop thinking about her so he embarks on a whirlwind tour of all the charity events he can find. Of course, he finally meets her again at an event. They talk more and of course, she’s got a boyfriend. But does that stop him? HELL NO! This is a romantic comedy, after all. The pursuit begins and it’s clear that the narrator has fallen for Her. His group of friends (played by Grace, Luke Wilson, Aubrey Plaza and Martin Starr) give him varying degrees of advice, some good, most of it bad. So the narrator is left to figure out what his approach should be. Does he get the girl? Remember, even a meta-rom com is still a rom com.

Playing It Cool_Still06

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film, but I enjoyed it. Evans and Monaghan have real chemistry together, which obviously is key for a film like this. Monaghan really stands out, though. She is everything that a paramour should be in a romantic comedy – funny, pretty, witty and vulnerable. Evans does an admirable job stepping outside his more action-based filmography (his best role being in Danny Boyle‘s Sunshine). A lot hinges on how these two actors interact and they pull it off well. Writers Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair did a fantastic job deconstructing the romantic comedy genre and employing its more ridiculous conventions in funny ways right down to using the same cafe/diner that appears in every other romantic comedy. Honestly, I wish they would have eviscerated it a bit more, but I guess that may be too much to ask. The scenes with the narrator and his group of friends are the absolute highlight of the film, although I would liked to have seen more Martin Starr. Luke Wilson gets back to his early Wes Anderson-film form, which is nice to see since he been in a pile of shitty movies since Idiocracy.

Playing It Cool_Still02

All in all, Playing It Cool is a satisfying experience and one that may well surprise you. This film opens today in theaters and will be the perfect antidote to the universally panned and borderline offensive Hot Pursuit. Monaghan‘s infectious performance is worth the price of admission. Here is the list of theaters where it is playing and it is also available On Demand as well.