Why I Gave Up Being a Movie Critic

At one time in my life I had very serious aspirations to sit for hours at a time in a movie theater, watch films, write about them, and make money (or at least, break even!). I no longer have those desires. I still love movies, and am rarely happier than in a cinema. And I will still write about film on occasion. But those desires–to see dozens, maybe even hundreds of films, and to swim in the narrative world and craft of movies–have all but evaporated.

Reading Kyle Smith’s commentary on the Jennifer Lawrence horror pic Mother reminded me of this. I’m not saying reading one critic’s take on a film is always sufficient to form an opinion, nor am I sure I’d have the same takeaways that Kyle had. But here’s the thing: Even if Kyle’s column is mostly true…actually, even if its partially true, I don’t want any part of Mother. I don’t want to watch it and I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want its story and its form to be part of my life. And I wouldn’t want that even if someone were offering me money to watch it and critique it.

I find myself feeling this way about a lot of movies nowadays. There are lots of good movies out there, more than most people realize. But there is also a lot to wade through to get to them. A critic’s job is to wade. I no longer believe I can or would even want to do that. A truly trustworthy critic must often stifle his strongest reactions to a movie in order to become a fair observer. He must also be willing to encounter films like Mother. Whether because of parenthood, or because of my own emotional fragility, or because I find myself desperate nowadays for any semblance of hope from pop culture, I just can’t do that anymore.

I don’t want what Kyle describes in his review to become “normal” for me. I don’t want to lose my gag reflex over films just because, having seen so many, my categories have all been defined down. I’m glad Kyle is a critic and I’m glad he wrote what he wrote. Who knows? He may have saved me a couple hours of my life I would have been desperate to have back. I’m thankful for him. But I know that for me, I cannot imagine ever delighting in a medium enough to be glad I stayed and watched a film like Mother. Critics should be able do that. I’m not. That’s why I’m not a critic, and why I’ll probably never be.