Suddenly, after seven summer-movie weeks of disses, slams, backhanded compliments, and artful undermining, the nation’s film critics suddenly like movies not made by Pixar again: Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right are receiving ecstatic, nearly across-the-board raves that are thrilling producers and buoying each film’s Oscar hopes. Variety raved that Nolan has filmed “a heist thriller for surrealists,” while at least three critics have compared Nolan to Stanley Kubrick. Now The Kids Are All Right, which opened today, is sitting on a Metacritic rating of 85 (which would be way higher if it weren’t for eternally bemused quipster-outlier Anthony Lane. Our critic David Edelstein loved it; it’s being called perhaps the best comedy about a family ever made by A.O. Scott at the New York Times; Andrew O’Hehir at Salon named it one of the “most compelling portraits of an American marriage, regardless of sexuality, in film history”; and it’s even picking up TV-ready shout-outs from blurbmasters like Peter Travers (“Kids makes its own special magic!”). The raves are coming so fast and furious and poster-ready that Focus may have to issue Twilight-style single-character posters just to have room for them all.
It’s all very exciting, but you do get the sense that the plaudit-plumping film-festival effect may also be at play: Maybe critics have been enduring so many pathetic (The Last Airbender), awful (The A-Team), irritating (Grown Ups), and repetitive (Shrek Forever After) movies, back to back, week after week, that they have been flabbergasted to see something decent. Is this like that moment on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? when the audience thinks: Gee, that middle-aged guy sure knows his state capitals! Or are these new kids really so much more than all right?
Another film for grown-ups getting serious advanced hype is David Fincher’s The Social Network, thanks to its newly announced pole position at the New York Film Festival. But that film opens on October 1, when it won’t be surrounded by films with characters named B.A. Baracus or based on Nicktoons shows. Will critics be as rapturous in a season when they’re also seeing new dramas by the Coen Bros., Terrence Malick, Julian Schnabel, Anton Corbijn, Stephen Frears, and Mike Leigh? Maybe that would be a good time to come out with The A-Team 2.