Why We’re Bad People (or Welcome To The Spin Zone)
Yesterday I listened to the latest interview from KCRW’s The Business. For those of you who don’t know it, I definitely recommend subscribing to the podcast as it is a good weekly show focussed on the business of, well, The Business – as it were.
While I have been a little lukewarm on Kim Masters as host since the departure of Claude Brodesser-Akner I was really struck, and mildly offended by the interview she conducted this week with Tim Bevan, the producer of ‘State of Play’ and ‘Soloist’. In it, Mr. Bevan – who has produced many, many successful films, several of which I enjoyed immensely – berated “intelligent audiences” for not coming out to see his movie last weekend. He wagged his finger and said, in essence: “If you don’t come and watch my films then the industry will stop making these amazing films for you.” He backed this up by saying that the films had universally good reviews.
Well I have two words for you: get fucked.
First: when your film doesn’t connect with an audience you need to look at your film and your marketing. It’s not the audience’s fault, it’s yours. If perhaps you had a small indie with no marketing budget and you just couldn’t shout loud enough to let the audience know that the film was out there then you have a complaint. But that’s not the case. Tens of millions were spent on making & distributing this film. Ads covered TV, print & the internet. It wasn’t that people didn’t know it was there, it’s that people didn’t care.
Second: You are distorting the reviews you received. You are correct that you didn’t receive much by way of bad reviews. The problem is, you didn’t receive much by way of GOOD reviews. Most of the ones I saw said the film was a ho-hum star vehicle thriller. For example (via Metacritic which has the film at a 64) the extremely positive reviews came from industry sycophants like Entertainment Weekly and Premiere. Nobody thinks that a good review in EW means your film is actually good, my friend. Here are excerpts of the reviews from journals that your self-described “intelligent” audience reads:
“Crowe has an animal quickness and sensitivity, a threatening way of penetrating what someone is up to, a feeling for weakness in friends as well as opponents. He seems every inch a great journalist; it’s not his fault that the filmmakers let the big story slip through their fingers.” – David Denby, The New Yorker
“Somehow when State of Play should be at its stomach-clenching best, the tension simply evaporates.” – Betsy Sharkey, LA Times
“After a bracing first hour, State of Play defaults on the most basic promise of the conspiracy thriller. Instead of luring us down an ever-darker and twistier path, it strands us in a tedious and ill-designed maze.” – Dana Stevens, Slate
“The film’s director, Kevin Macdonald, who did “The Last King of Scotland,” is not a flair fellow. The chase scenes interpolated into this version have no special oomph; the encounters no residual kick. Paging Ridley Scott? Oh, sorry, too late. So there it is: another film that can’t compete with a TV show.” – Richard Corliss, Time
“A superficially clever, self-important and finally incoherent thriller.” – AO Scott, The New York Times
So what do I take this to mean? You tried to do an intelligent thriller but lacked the sophistication of Syriana and the intensity of a Bourne film. It’s not the audience that failed, sir, it’s you.
Better luck with Soloist, which you also scolded me in advance for not watching but I suspect that will fair not much better.