The premise: Benny (Aidan Quinn) has lived with his younger sister, Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) ever since their parents died when they were young. Although Benny and Joon are old enough to live in their own separate apartments, Benny continues to live with his mentally ill sister both as a protective measure and out of necessity (or so he thinks). When Benny loses a strange bet to one of his friends, he is forced to bring an eccentric young man named Sam (Johnny Depp) into his household. Uncomfortable expressing himself through words, Sam instead makes his feelings known through brilliantly imitated routines from old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. When Sam and Joon form a romantic bond, Benny starts to experience jealousy about his sister's growing independence from him.
While reading up on the film afterward I noticed that audiences and critics alike were pretty divided about their opinions. Some took it for what it was -- a sweet little distraction that was never meant to be taken as high quality cinema -- while others lambasted it as an empty and contrived film that reduced mental illness to a trivial character trait. Film critic Desson Thomson of The Washington Post commented on Rotten Tomatoes: "Riddled with insufferable contrived zaniness ...it deals as deeply with mental illness as The Sound of Music explored the genocidal advance of the Third Reich." Yikes, I say. It got me thinking about film criticism and how, every once and awhile, it's simply okay to thoroughly enjoy a film without damning it for not being high-calibre cinema. I completely disagree with Thomson's comment and it made me think about films that I may have reviewed in the past that I maybe shouldn't have taken so seriously and criticized so harshly.
|Joon (Masterson) and Sam (Depp).|
I know there are a lot of people out there who hate film critics and think they shouldn't exist. I know people personally who say that it's one of the most useless occupations because it ultimately has little influence as to whether or not a person winds up seeing a certain film. While this may be true to a certain extent, I'm of the opinion that all art forms should be fairly criticized so that they can be discussed and studied. How else will we learn to form opinions, share our ideas and talk about popular culture without art criticism, in all its forms?
So, I guess my question to you is: Should some movies be exempt from serious film criticism? Or, if not exempt completely, should they be rated differently than certain higher quality films?