How to Write a Movie Review to Capture the Authentic “Viewer Experience”
A few years ago when I was thinking about the George Clooney vehicle “Syriana (2005),” a reply I’ve read somewhere to the criticism that the movie “did not make perfect sense,” changed my whole outlook on movies in general, and movie reviews in particular.
The writer basically said that, yes, there were quite a few sequences and plot points in “Syriana” did not make perfect sense because the subject matter itself also did not make perfect sense either! So how do you shoot a not-so-clear-cut movie of a not-so-clear-cut subject matter?! Wow… I never entertained the thought and I was really moved by the originality of the concept.
Here I do not want to go into the whole important discussion of the difference between a STORY and a PLOT (read Peter Dunne for that). But let me suffice to say that this issue of “imperfection” is live and well in movie review writing as well.
You know the regular, traditional movie reviews: introduce the director, writer and the cast. Summarize the story/plot. Point out what was right or wrong with it. Give it a rating. And then get out. Thank you.
But does this really reflect the authentic viewer experience? What did we really feel as we watched this on a DVD in the privacy of our home, or together with a hundred other movie lovers in a movie theater? Was our viewing experience PERFECT? If not, why should our movie reviews be PERFECT either?
Did we follow the plot from A to Z without a problem? And if we didn’t, should we go back and STUDY the plot until we get it right, like solving a geometry problem? Or should we reflect that imperfection as is in our reviews, should we honor it, since that’s the honest unadulterated subjective experience?
I think there’ll always be room in our world for Wikipedia-like completion and encyclopedic perfection for movie reviews. But I’d argue that we also need more authentic movie reviews, exactly reflecting what we felt like when we watched this work of art for the first time. If our experience includes a sense of getting lost and shifting perspectives and projecting our own interpretations on the perceived story line and characterization, let it be. That should only enrich the authentic viewer experience and not impoverish it.
After all, when Picasso broke the human figure into a million pieces and put them together in a way that “did not make perfect sense” he enriched the way we perceived the world, didn’t he? Why shouldn’t we attempt to do and allow the same in movie reviews?
If you love movies and would like to write movie and entertainment reviews like this you might want to check out the excellent power-writing guide at http://www.powerupwriting.com And here’s a good site for free movie plot and characterization ideas: http://scriptboiler.blogspot.com