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ranters and ravers

Ben Brantley Gives Aaron Sorkin the Most Patronizing Review Ever?

Photos: nytimes.com, Getty Images

Yikes, what did Aaron Sorkin ever do to Ben Brantley? The Times critic rips Sorkin's play, The Farnsworth Invention, a new one today with a review so patronizing it seems as though it was written by Ratatouille's Anton Ego. In part this condescending tone is thanks to Brantley's initial comparison of the play to "a classroom presentation on a seven-figure budget":

The show certainly deserves high marks for all those traits that exacting schoolteachers hold dear: conciseness, legibility, correct use of topic sentences, evidence in defense of two sides of an argument and colorful examples to support the main thesis.


Brantley also calls the play "an animated Wikipedia entry, fleshed out with the sort of anecdotal scenes that figure in 're-enactments' on E! channel documentaries and true-crime shows," and pleasantly points out the ways it's like a weaker ripoff of Michael Frayn's historical drama Copenhagen. Brantley's conclusion: not as good as television.

It's the kind of review that seems perfectly calibrated to infuriate its subject: It refuses to take Sorkin seriously, pats him on his head, and sends him on his way, chastened. Now, we haven't seen the show — one estimable colleague called it "not bad!" and claimed it proved that Aaron Sorkin is a pretty good writer if he just gives himself time, unlike on Studio 60, to do a second draft — but we can't help but think this review might be overkill.

So what did Sorkin do to Brantley? Steal his prom date? Wittily skewer his pretensions? Bogart his stash? Take a guess in the comments!