This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
If we agree with famous Baltimore contrarian H.L. Mencken that a critic must, above all things, have a "capacity for gusto," then Victor Tallez (Rafael Spregelburd), the Buenos Aires film critic moping his way through Hernán Guerschuny's "The Film Critic" is failing spectacularly in his calling. The "capacity for gusto" has been sucked out of him. He sees too many films, and all of them are bad. He has lost touch with the unwashed hoi polloi, who adore clichéd rom-coms, who approach things with (as he sees it) an uncritical eye. He rolls his eyes at gusto. Tallez is a cliché himself, the critic who scoffs at popular taste, who feels the entire world has derailed into a pit of sentimentality and bad art. "The Film Critic" pokes fun at criticism (at least Tallez's cranky prissy brand of it), and while lampooning self-serious intellectual critics is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, "The Film Critic" takes a light and knowing tone, spoofing the sacred cows of the critic world, and cramming every scene with visual film clichés that act like a "Where's Waldo?" of cinema.
The opening of "The Film Critic" shows the back of Tallez's head as he walks through the Buenos Aires streets, all as he drones on in French about his "maladie du cinema." "Films are suffocating me," he states flatly, and the condition is incurable. Set against grainy black-and-white street-scene images, reminiscent of the French New Wave, Tallez comes across as a dissociated gloomy figure, trapped in the confines of his own head. At the end of the opening, he drones, again in French, "At one point one may want to know why I think in French." [Beat.] "I have no idea." Of course, an Argentinian film critic, who sees the world as a French New Wave film, who is working on an "exhaustive" study of Godard, would "think" in French.
Tallez is a nationally syndicated film critic, and seems glumly proud of the fact that he hasn't given a review "Four Seats" (his newspaper gives "seats" instead of "stars") in years. He spends his days in a monotonous manner, going to press screenings, then out for coffee with a group of critics. Back at the office, his boss rails at Tallez, scolding him for his harsh reviews ("You are a terrorist of taste"). Tallez's harshest critiques go to rom-coms, and he lectures his credulous niece (Telma Crisanti), who loves rom-coms and can recite "Jerry Maguire" from memory, on what is wrong with the genre. Tallez describes the rom-com clichés: "Do not forget to put rain, lots of rain. And a run. We don't know why, but they always run." (Cue image of Billy Crystal running to find Meg Ryan in "Harry Met Sally.") Tallez is a drip.
Of course, over the course of "The Film Critic," Tallez meets an adorable and carefree woman named Sofia (Dolores Fonzi), who challenges all of his hard-won contempt for rom-coms. Sofia breezes into his life, wearing a big furry beret, carrying her Pink Panther bike helmet under her arm, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl par extraordinaire. She has no job, she is "quirky" (one of her quirks is kleptomania), she takes Tallez to experimental performance art pieces (Tallez drones in French on the voiceover: "My God. Enough. Kill me.") and, strangely enough, she has nothing better to do with her time than to hang out with this crank and show him how beautiful life can be. In its own fluffy way, Sofia is a critique of the movie cliché: woman as inspirational figure sprinkling fairy-dust over gloomy self-absorbed men drawn into their magical circle. When they first kiss, fireworks go off in the sky. Tallez has entered the rom-com of his nightmares and finds that it's not actually all that bad.