Press screenings are great, and I highly recommend you either get a job where you have access to them or become my friend so I bring you as my guest for the low price of keeping me company through dinner beforehand and saying “thank you” afterward.
There is one other price to pay, though: the PR gauntlet. After screenings, the PR people handling the films (who are all great, by the way) stand outside and gauge reactions. Which poses a problem for me, because I was raised to be both honest and absurdly polite. This is a problem when I don’t like the movie. The PR reps aren’t responsible for the film, of course, so I don’t think they’d take it personally if I grabbed one of them by her collar, shoved her against the wall and told her that the film was so bad that the director should be tried for crimes against humanity, that it was a real shame we no longer put people in stocks in the town square because that’s the only punishment appropriate for anyone associated with the film, and there is no water hot enough, no loofah abrasive enough, and no soap strong enough for me to get the stink of said movie out of my very pores.
I tend to say, “It had some nice moments,” which is not a lie. The film did end, after all, and that was a nice moment. Or a noncommittal “ ’salright,” accompanied with a head tilt. The most damning thing I say is, “It wasn’t the best thing I’ve seen this year,” which is code for “I’m going to apply to my editor for hazard pay for this one.”
Even when I do like a film, my immediate reaction is often wrong; it takes time to discover what I really think of a film. My non-answers aren’t a way of avoiding the truth. It’s just that, right after a film, I rarely know what the truth is.