Dolores Fonzi shares a winkingly cheesy embrace with Rafael Spregelburd in "The FiMusic Box

‘The Film Critic’
Hernan Guerschuny
Stars: Rafael Spregelburd, Dolores Fonzi
Rating: NR
2 (out of 5) Globes

I’ve never met anyone like the hero of “The Film Critic,” a grumpy malcontent who hates populist cinema with a passion, if not as much as he hates life itself. He’s someone who once believed in the lies peddled by mainstream movies; upon discovering their mendacity he became an avenger for truth in a medium largely about fantasy. He’s a lazy stereotype — a parody of a critic that exists only in the minds of those who aren’t one. So it’s a surprise to learn “The Film Critic” is the writing-directing debut of a real critic, and a serious one: Hernan Guerschuny, who’s long run the Argentine movie mag Hacienda Cine. His send-up of his vocation isn’t as lame as the theater critic set to eviscerate Michael Keaton’s “Birdman” hero before she sees his play, but it still cries out for some imagination, if not actual accuracy.

“The Film Critic”’s saving grace is that it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and betrays that he knows what he’s talking about. Early on there’s even an easy but mildly amusing joke about minimalist long take cinema, particularly of the Tsai Ming-liang/Hou Hsiao-hsien variety. “Easy but mildly amusing” is as good as “The Film Critic” gets, though it actually has a solid hook. Respected, serious, downcast, bearded Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) is a vocal opponent of that most dreaded genre, the rom-com. Sure enough he finds himself essentially in one: He meets-cute one Sofia (Dolores Fonzi), a peppy but alluring woman who does not share his interests, and professes to enjoying watching people watching movies to watching movies. Victor has to wrestle with keeping to his own stubborn beliefs while wanting to experience life from a sunnier perspective.

This makes “The Film Critic” sound more meta than it is. It goes light on its premise, simply having Victor suffer the occasional screenwriterly coincidence of running into Sofia time and again. When Victor launches into an epic rail against the Richard Curtis-style climactic mad-dash-to-profess-love, you know the film will end with him in a mad dash to profess his life. Guerschuny throws two jackhammers into the ending’s gears, one pretty funny, the other obvious from miles away. The halfhearted play with convention fits in with the rest of the film, except for a subplot about a budding filmmaker (Ignacio Rogers) out for justice over a bad review, which should have been the first thing Guerschuny axed from his script. For the record, there are good stretches where "The Film Critic" plays like a perfectly likable rom-com, thanks in large part to Fonzi's winning turn. At these times it almost doesn't matter that its maker should be crabby enough to avoid turning his hero into a tired cliche.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
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