Jesse Eisenberg’s latest piece in the New Yorker, An Honest Film Review, has angered film journalists. Written from the perspective of a narcissistic film critic whose film taste is affected by his bitter, jealous and self-involved personality, it seems the film community have taken it as a direct attack, using twitter to express their disapproval.
Words: Yasmin Harding, Subeditor: Lauren Burgess
In the piece he creates a film critic who slates a movie because he himself is a failed writer, is not the best looking, and can’t seem to understand the plot (because he sneaks off to the loo in the middle of an important scene.) Oh, and to make his main character even more likeable, in An Honest Film Review, Eisenberg’s fictional construct approves of the leading man because he is ‘at least two or three inches shorter than I am. Kudos to you, Mr Kern’. To add to that, a rejection from The New York Times hinders his view on the movie. They love it, so he certainly doesn’t: ‘And the Times critic seemed to love the movie, which is no surprise, because the Times loves everything. Well, everything except me.’
How irrelevant are we, by the way, if a major actor like Eisenberg can insult us in The New Yorker and not worry about retribution?
— Noah Gittell (@ReelChanger) November 18, 2015
Is this really what Eisenberg thinks of film journalists? Brutal, Eisenberg, brutal. It’s to be expected though, we have this perception of critics in general, regardless from what specialism, that they just turn their nose up at everything, sneering and claiming that most things are average at best. Film journalists have become what people perceive food critics as. But instead of turning our noses up at food, we roll our eyes at movies, exhale heavily, and then take to our laptop screens with a hidden agenda in mind – to completely ruin the movie for others. Yes, that is exactly what we strive to do.
It’s not “taking the bait” or being hypocritical to voice displeasure when a smug asshole attacks your entire profession. — Jason Bailey (@jasondashbailey) November 18, 2015
We shouldn’t be completely offended – because it’s fairly obvious that Jesse is mocking those who write about film from a personal perspective. A bitter, revenge fuelled perspective. This isn’t an attack on all film critics, just those who don’t really make it to the important publications (The New York Times specifically here) that have a huge impact on a film’s success. Ones that will tell us a movie is awful, and encourage us not to watch it, and we probably won’t. These critics can dramatically affect how well a movie does. If you do sit around and sneer at every movie you watch based on your lack of achievements in life, then be offended. Or have a read of the fictional Justin M Damiano, created by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes; The Book of Other People. That will surely offend a few more critics. Just note that he isn’t a real critic. He doesn’t exsist;
In The Book Of Other People, Most critics,” he writes, “will give any movie three-and-a-half stars if it flatters their self-image. I take it much more seriously. Have you ever noticed how most critics usually disagree completely with the public? That should tell you a lot about critics.”
@jasondashbailey it wasn’t a great piece, but I’m not certain he’s criticizing your entire profession, & not just those that are bad at it.
— Lindsay Rae Bailey (@LindsayBails) November 18, 2015
So why are we so offended by An Honest Review? It’s satirical, and we should see it as just that. We can’t fault Jesse Eisenberg though, his acting has always been clever and humorous, and now he brings us a piece on a writer ‘who thinks he’s the centre of the universe, and thinks his personal gripes are worthy of being published’ he tells the Chicago Tribune during a Printers Row event. He also refers to a review during the interview, which may have inspired An Honest Review;
“The review said something along the lines of, ‘Woody Allen makes another movie. This one doesn’t really work, but hey, he’s doing one a year. Slow down, Wood-man.’ And I realized the guy was not criticising the movie. He was criticising his own lack of productivity and laziness, vis-a-vis Woody Allen’s productivity. But instead he was putting down the movie.”
Are film critics actually mad at this? I thought it was funny, sue me. https://t.co/mJQdNyQPSO
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) November 18, 2015
It seems that as film critics, at least those who don’t fit Eisenberg’s portrayal of a self-obsessed film critic, should pat themselves on the back, continue to write good, unbiased content, and take it in their stride. Critics are built to have tough skin after all…