Here’s the heart of the problem: The set of critics’ and audiences’ interests do not perfectly overlap but rather form a Venn diagram. In the audience circle, the pressing question is, “Should I spend some number of the dollars I have to my name and the hours I have left on Earth on this thing?” Critics get in for free and by definition have to read or watch or listen to whatever’s next up. So their circle is filled with relativistic questions about craft and originality and wallet quality and the often unhelpfully general “Is it good?”
Ben Yagoda on critics.
(The reference to “wallet quality”, for the record, is explained above this quote as,
I think of Paul Reiser’s bit about a friend who shows him a picture of his extraordinarily ugly baby. Reiser finds there is nothing he can say except, “Nice wallet!”)
The general rule-of-thumb is that the more a critic/reviewer talks about the technical minutia/plot of a work—rather than some emotional or intellectual reaction to it—the more they’re writing their review out of obligation, not emotional attachment…