review of a movie review

The Assignment

For Paper 1, you are going to write a response to a movie review. This will require you to find a review of a film from a reputable printed or online source. The review will be of a film that you have personally seen, and you will submit the review you choose with your final draft of Paper 1.

Writing a response to a movie review is really just another form of responding to a literary argument (think of the review as a short essay in which the author is arguing for you seeing the film or not). To write intelligently about any given piece of literature, you must be able to distinguish the qualities of its literary tradition from the properties singular to that particular work; in other words, you must learn to separate content from form. Therefore, do not make the mistake of thinking that one opinion about a literary piece, such as a review, is as valid and makes as good a reasoned argument as the next one. Texts, certainly popular ones like movie reviews, do not exist in isolation. They are influenced by and contribute to ongoing conversations, controversies, or debates, especially ones dealing with controversial subjects. So, to understand the text, you need to understand the larger context in which it exists. Make your paper a reasoned, objective one based on a close, thorough reading of the review.


As you begin your response of the review, you need to determine clear criteria as the basis for your objective analysis (in short pieces, like movie reviews, the reviewer will provide the criteria for you in his or her review). In fact, you can integrate the criteria into the response as reasons for your assessment. Criteria are facts or examples used to help indicate judgment or aid in criticism. Remember that a fair and balanced response does not need to be all positive or negative; it can acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses / agreements and disagreements. However, to determine what the reviewer is saying, read the review at least twice, with the assumption that every single part of the review is there for a reason (which, given the limitations on space and words in many publications, makes “reading between the lines” imperative).


Responses to film reviews are easily divided into two parts. In the first part, present your source’s point of view in an Objective 3rd Person point of view (i.e. accurately and dispassionately summarize the review) and analyze the reviewer’s critique of the film. Choose a review which analyzes the film and not just summarizes it; a review that is mostly plot summary of the film will affect your ability to analyze it. Be sure to include 1) the reviewer’s name, 2) the title of the review (if there is one), 3) the title of the film being reviewed, and 4) the publication from which the review came (all of which can easily fit into the first paragraph). In the second part, objectively present your reasons for agreeing / disagreeing with the review. (You might want to divide the paper into equal parts i.e. two pages for the review and two pages for your response. The choice of review, of course, will determine how you structure the paper.) Choose a film that you feel strongly about, but not necessarily your favorite or least favorite one. It is almost always easier to converse about something in which you are emotionally invested, but beware that emotionalism can often be an impediment to objectivity. Also, you should watch the film at least once (if you have not seen it recently). It is imperative that the review comes from a reputable source, such as major newspapers (i.e. The Washington Times, New York Times, Chicago Sun – Times, etc.), magazines (i.e. Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Vanity Fair, Village Voice, Variety, etc.), and anthologies of movie reviews, such as Roger Ebert’s or Leonard Maltin’s. You may access your source either in print or on-line, but be sure to correctly cite the source in the text in any event. Finally, submit an annotated copy of the review with your final draft. DO NOT EMAIL ME LINKS TO YOUR ARTICLE! If necessary, cut and paste your review into Word, format it, and submit it. Again, you are writing about a review of a film, and not about the film itself (i.e. critiquing the critique).

Here are some questions that might help you in your review of the response.

1) Does the reviewer give the film a good, bad, or indifferent review? Can you support

your answer with evidence from the review?

2) Does the review offer the reader a cogent glimpse of what the film is all about? How

does the review accomplish this / fail to accomplish this?

3) What is the reviewer’s opinion of the acting throughout the film? What role(s) do(es)

the reviewer stress in the review?

4) Does the reviewer display any obvious bias (over and above simply reviewing the

film) in the review? Does the publication in which the review appears affect the

review in any way?

5) Does the reviewer use quotations from the film in the review? If so, what seems to be

the reviewer’s purpose in doing so?

6) Does the reviewer use any unfamiliar words? words that seem pretentious or

deliberately designed to obscure? If so, look them up and, then, examine why they

appear in the review where they do.

7) Does the reviewer mention any other films in the review as a point(s) of contrast? If

so, why does the author choose these particular films?

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