Over the last few years I’ve learned to be wary of anything Dan Fogelman has had a hand in. I didn’t mind Last Vegas, which Fogelman wrote, but I pretty much hated Danny Collins, which he directed and wrote. I’ve therefore ducked screenings of Fogelman’s Life Itself (Amazon, 9.21), and apparently with good reason.
Fogelman’s latest has gotten creamed on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, earning respective ratings of 12% and 19%. As you might expect, Fogelman has called out the white-guy critical establishment for the usual usual.
“White male critics don’t like anything that has any emotion,” he recently told TooFab. “It’s concerning because it is important. It tells people what to go see. I think that the people with the widest reach are getting increasingly cynical and vitriolic. Something is inherently a little bit broken in our film criticism right now.”
Life Itself may or may not be a problematic film, but Fogelman isn’t wrong about critics disliking films with strong emotional currents. Or at least those saddled with a sense of taste. Being one of them, I can say they definitely prefer the use of suggestion, understatement and deft, darting brush strokes. They definitely tend to push back if the emotional gush is turned on too heavily. This is how anyone with cultivated taste buds would respond.
It’s also true about film critics being made up of mostly older white guys. And yet, as World of Reel’s Jordan Ruimy has pointed out, many of the negative reviews were from female critics. Of the 19 female film critics who’ve reviewed Life Itself on Rotten Tomatoes, 17 wrote pans.