Critics adore, fans abhor

Such is the consensus opinion about P.T. Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” according to this Tribune story by Barbara Brotman, citing as her source postings to the Yahoo! movies message board.

Yet it merits an 8.1 out of 10 rating from users of the Internet Movie Database, which is about as precise an instrument. Over at Epinions.com, “PDL” has received an average of four out of five stars from 21 reviewers. That said, Brotman’s explanation of why critical and popular opinion often diverge is on the money:

Critics tend to be deeply appreciative of movies that are unusual, said Lester Friedman, a film professor at Northwestern University.

“Reviewers see an awful lot of bad films,” he said. “I think something which shows a spark of creativity or a willingness to invest genres with new insights and twists will certainly get their attention.”

Columbia film & video professor Reid Schultz also makes a good point in the story:

“The reviews were awful,” he said. “Basically, what they talked about was that this is a different Adam Sandler movie. ‘Look, Adam Sandler can act.’ But they don’t talk about what all those abstract colors are doing in this movie. … The analysis hasn’t been there.

“Of course people are walking out, because there’s nobody to help them understand it.”

But part of why the reviews did such a poor job of capturing the spirit of the movie and conveying it to their readers is because it does such an excellent job of defying genre conventions. My impressionistic reaction would probably have done most readers as well as most reviews from the nation’s best critics.