Don’t listen to me.
Don’t listen to the critics…or at least not before you see a film, anyway.
This may sound self-defeating, given the nature of my endeavors, but I strongly encourage you follow the aforementioned rule as long as you remember that it’s not absolute; it’s more like a guideline.
Why? Because one of the greatest things about film is that it’s subjective. Any one person can have a different experience than every other sitting in a theatre. In stories you discover things that affect you on personal levels. You may be thinking, “How could Zombieland affect someone on a personal level?” Although it may sound ridiculous that anyone could gain perspective from a movie with a premise where the entire world’s population has been turned into zombies, that’s also just your perspective. What’s one person’s metaphorical isolation from society is another’s blood, guts and violence. Is there anything wrong with either of those perspectives? Of course not. To each, his own.
Take Citizen Kane. Charles Foster Kane mutters a single word, “Rosebud”, right before his death. This man is a worldwide icon, and as such there are many different accounts of his life. The film follows a reporter seeking the “truth” as he consults those close to Kane. The entire story is told through flashbacks of interactions that each of these individuals have had with Kane. We’re presented with differing opinions, and at the end, that’s all we have. You, as the viewer, are left to decide for yourself who Charles Foster Kane was. Was he a tyrant? Was he a lonely old man holding on to the one true happy memory he had left in his life? It’s up to you.
The point is, reading a review limits your perspective. You’re going into a movie with a “professional” opinion that has a very good chance of influencing your own. Why would you do that? Save it for later. I like to read reviews after I’ve seen a movie. Maybe I feel I’m not grasping it all from a first impression (Synecdoche, New York). Sometimes it’s because I absolutely hated a movie and wanted to read about why people liked it, or conversely because I absolutely loved it and wish to find shared admiration.
Obviously there are exceptions (see The Love Guru. Well, don’t actually SEE it, but just read some snippets of reviews. It was all I needed). But the point is, have your own experience when you go into a theatre. Don’t share someone else’s and don’t lie to yourself because you think that you should agree with what a critic says because they’re professionals. Movies aren’t made for the critics. They’re made for YOU.