“We would like to remind patrons that ‘The Tree of Life’ is a uniquely visionary and deeply philosophical film by an auteur director,” the memo read, before understating, “It does not follow a traditional, linear narrative approach to storytelling.” The note concluded by announcing that the theater would not be handing out refunds to disgruntled audience members — a policy they needed to reinforce after a few filmgoers walked out on the film and demanded their money back. “The Avon stands behind this ambitious work of art and other challenging films, which define us as a true art house cinema,” the memo concluded, “and we hope you will expand your horizons with us.”
Expanding their horizons? What a quaint idea. More and more, it seems, that’s the last thing filmgoers are interested in doing. Powered by fandom’s technologically amplified voice, they instead prefer cinematic experiences that simply confirm their own assumptions of what a cinematic experience should be.
Through such outlets as Facebook, Twitter and the comment sections of sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, the notion that “everyone’s a critic” has never been truer. Or scarier. Because with that exciting new empowerment has come an unwelcome petulant edge. A sense of adventure has been replaced, in some quarters, by a sense of entitlement.
If 2011 was the year of Angry Voters and Angry Birds, it was also the year of the Angry Moviegoers.
The months since the “The Tree of Life” memo have brought fresh outrages, from the woman who sued the company that released “Drive” because it didn’t contain enough driving, to the British filmgoers who recently demanded refunds when they realized that “The Artist” was a silent movie (no word on whether they contacted their lawyers when they saw that it was in black and white).
Dear filmgoers, as a critic, I cast myself as your advocate in the multiplex. I try — with limited success, judging from a couple of recent e-mails about “The Grey” — to shine a light on deserving gems, warn you off the dreck and somehow anticipate the individual tastes and desires of an audience that spans generations, genders, ethnicities, religious creeds and constitutional tolerance of sex, violence and Adam Sandler comedies.