Now that the word is out about a certain upcoming film possibly being too smart for the room, I’m trying to recall which other films have earned this distinction.
Obviously it’s an honorable thing for a mainstream film to be accused of dealing cards that only the A students are going to fully appreciate. Lord knows that most films cater to C and D students on the theory that they cast a wider net.
Critics as a rule don’t like to even acknowledge the existence of “too smart” movies because to do so implies that perhaps they themselves didn’t get it, and that may lead to their editors getting ideas and maybe canning their ass down the road. I’m one of the few critics or columnists to have actually admitted to feeling intellectually challenged by a film. On 3.7.09 I openly stated that I wasn’t smart enough to fully understand Tony Gilroy‘s Duplicity.
All I can say is that the public sure as hell recognizes “too smart for its own good” when it happens, and woebetide the movie that gets painted with this brush.
There are some films, I imagine, that shoot themselves in both feet by being too smart and too hip for the room at the same time, although I can’t think of a good example at the moment. David Fincher‘s Zodiac, one of the greatest films of the last decade, possibly qualifies in this regard. It’s much more common to be described as simply “too hip or the room,” although hearing this about a film makes me want to see it immediately.
Grindhouse was obviously no intellectual puzzle movie, but it was definitely too hip for the room. Michelangelo Antonioni‘s wonderful early-to-mid ’60s hot streak was rooted in the chic allure of being too hip for the room — he was a genius at this. By refusing to tell the audience what happened to the missing girls, Peter Weir ‘s Picnic at Hanging Rock became this sort of film in a very admirable and dazzling way. Michael Haneke is a brilliant fellow, but he’s always out-smarting himself, I feel. Pretty much every Coen Bros. film ever made has been too hip for the room — that’s their badge of honor — but their movies are never confounding. Greenberg was too hip for the room.
But what others besides Zodiac were too intellectually complex and too off on their own aesthetic-attitudinal beam to attract at least a fair-sized audience?