Critic Reviews



Based on 14 critic reviews provided by
An exquisitely crafted documentary about the woman who was arguably the greatest movie critic who ever lived.
Befitting the subject's personality and entertainment predilections, What She Said is adamantly engaging, full of lively, appreciative voices that, more than anything else, bring her enthusiasm and keen-mindedness back to life.
Garver’s film is above all a celebration of the pleasure of intellectual and emotional response to art (“To be paid for thinking is a marvellous way to live,” Kael says), and a picture of a style of thinking that might be seen as distinctively but non-stereotypically female.
To see Rob Garver’s affectionate documentary about her career,“What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, is to be once again swept away by the excitement of cinema as she experienced it.
Despite that iffy start, Garver’s film blossoms into something more comprehensive than complimentary, a film that doesn’t balk at the trickier aspects of Kael’s career, even as it never fully engages with the tensions that informed her.
It was perhaps a strength as a critic and a weakness as a person that she never understood how painful her words could be.
Dealing with a personality this strong could not have been easy, and director Garver, whose background is in short films, does a balanced job, giving space to Kael’s partisans while finding time for the other side.
The documentary is enjoyable, but one suspects that its subject may have found it soft.
The state of modern criticism has never been so splintered. We create harsher and harsher binaries in our online response to cinema every day, so reading Kael can make you go, “Hey, remember pleasure?” While Garver’s documentary isn’t worthy of its subject’s fascinating artistic legacy, I anxiously await the one that is.
A numbing torrent of largely unidentified film clips and poorly labeled commentary, Rob Garver’s overstuffed tribute to the life and work of America’s best-known — and most written about — film critic is at times barely coherent.

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