In his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert yesterday defended his review of Tru Loved, a limited-release dramedy about a teen’s struggles after relocating to San Francisco with her lesbian moms.
The problem with his critique? Ebert watched only eight minutes of the film, a sorta-important detail he doesn’t admit until the review’s end, despite objections from his editor. Her concerns are valid:
She e-mailed me: “Just got down to the part where you mention that you watched ONLY eight minutes of this movie. I don’t blame you but do you really want to open that door? I fear your admission will start people wondering whether this is a regular practice. Of course it’s not but you don’t want to raise those suspicions. The alternative: take out those grafs. Or I could kill the review and we could try to find a substitute. Your original review is clever and well-written but I think morally dishonest because you conceal your MO until the very end.”
Then again, so is Ebert’s argument for keeping the piece as-is:
My editor argued that in my “Tru Loved” review, I should reveal in the first paragraph that I drew the line at eight minutes. I protested. That would pervert the flow of the review. Everything after would be anti-climax. What I was trying to do was recreate my thoughts as I watched the movie, and show them leading inexorably to my eventual decision.
Ebert won the battle, and his review ran in its original form.
So, does this teardown after watching not even one-tenth of the movie pervert his opinion—-or, on a larger scale, his reputation? I don’t think so. No self-respecting critic with an ounce of sense and a modicum of integrity—-no matter how tired and bitter watching one bad film after another can sometimes turn us—-would make a habit of dismissing a work without sitting through the entire thing. (Though I admit to occasionally having one foot out the door myself—-Hell Ride comes to mind — while encouraging whoever’s witnessing the train wreck with me to save themselves.)
I believe, as Ebert stated, that this was an aberration, and I think he turned the opportunity into a unique piece of criticism. Wonder if he’ll ever be curious enough to watch the rest?