I have not yet seen the new Ed Zwick movie Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but I am always intrigued when reviewers I regularly read espouse opposite reactions to a film. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times hated the film; David Denby of The New Yorker liked it. I was particularly struck that the same aspects of the movie both enraged and thrilled the reviewers. David Denby referred to the film as "enjoyable" and called it Ed Zwick's best. He thought the film well-made and not sensationalized. Manohla Dargis, in contrast, writes:
"If films were judged solely by their good intentions, this one would be best in show. Instead, gilded in money and dripping with sanctimony, confused and mindlessly contradictory, the film is a textbook example of how easily commercialism can trump do-goodism, particularly in Hollywood."
Both writers agree DiCaprio is great. But about his co-star Jennifer Connelly, they diverge sharply. Mr. Denby attests, "Connelly suddenly seems like a movie star, not a warm-eyed soul mate." Ms Dargis avers that Connelly's performance is "woeful."
Hmmm. What accounts for the differences? My guess is that Denby, ever the turgid conservative, overlooks the self-righteousness of the film in favor of its cinematic slickness. Then again, even if the film is commercial, it is still bringing much-needed attention to an important topic. I rarely agree with Denby, but then again, I don't necessarily share Dargis's taste. She recently mooned over David Lynch's "masterpiece" Mulholland Drive. Perhaps if I share her sentiment on that film, I will feel more on her side in the Denby-Dargis match.