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A Film Critic Gets Meta (As Does Ours) In 'The Film Critic (El Crítico)'

The romance between Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) and Sophia (Dolores Fonzi) is a checklist of cliches that the titular character would hate.
The romance between Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) and Sophia (Dolores Fonzi) is a checklist of cliches that the titular character would hate.

A film critic doesn't often have to review movies about film critics — probably a good thing — but sometimes, as with Hernán Guerschuny's postmodern rom-com The Film Critic (El crítico), there's nothing to be done. That's also a good thing, as it turns out.

The Film Critic (El crítico) centers on Victor (Rafael Spregelburd), a bearded curmudgeon who reviews films for an Argentine newspaper and is a definite grouch when it comes to the kind of movies most people like. Car chases, explosions, comedies he can do without. Give him a classic from the French New Wave. In fact, he's pretentious enough that when he thinks to himself in voice overs, he thinks in French. (Spanish, he says without evident irony, makes him sound artificial and judgmental.)

Judgmental, he certainly is. Settling down in a screening room, he's already conjuring up the snark he'll spout over coffee to his fellow critics, especially if the film in question is a romantic comedy. He loathes those and happily shreds their cliches for his 16-year-old niece: the couple with chemistry, the casual encounters that are forced and ridiculous, the swelling strings when they look at each other, the fireworks when they kiss, the disagreements because of misunderstandings, the walks in the rain — could anything possibly be sillier?

Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) is pretentious enough that he thinks in French, even though he's from Argentina.
/ Courtesy of Music Box Films
Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) is pretentious enough that he thinks in French, even though he's from Argentina.

And then, Victor meets Sophia (Dolores Fonzi) while looking for an apartment, and because she seems to want the apartment, too, he has to keep running into her. And to his horror, his life starts turning into a romantic comedy. Before long, he's quoting Jerry Maguire to her, and when she leans in for a kiss ... fireworks!

That's not all (not by a long shot, if you'll pardon that expression). Victor's whole world goes movie-meta: He's writing a screenplay and putting scenes in it from the romance he's living. He discovers that he's being secretly filmed by a filmmaker he once trashed.

And he gets so distracted by all that, he accidentally races into the middle of a big movie's location-shoot and messes it up. Critics often feel they're living, eating and breathing movies when they see more than 300 a year; this guy actually is ... and watching him, I almost knew how he felt.

Full disclosure: The Film Critic (El crítico) is set in Buenos Aires and I have family in Buenos Aires, so I go there a lot. Victor watches films in a screening room that I've actually sat in. And while my Spanish isn't good enough for me to hobnob with critics there, I confess that I did sometimes snort as Victor does at romantic comedies.

And then, also like Victor, I had my comeuppance when I met the love of my life, and found myself choking up a few days later at a preview of The Princess Bride. So you will not hear me snorting at this romantic comedy, even though it's available not just on big screens but on video-on-demand (something Victor would doubtless call a betrayal of all things cinematic).

The Film Critic (El crítico) strikes me as comically exaggerated, certainly, but not inaccurate. Let's call it a gentle wake-up call for reviewers who see themselves as movie gatekeepers rather than movie analysts. And — cue the strings — let's also call it an entirely winning romance.

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