Review: WHAT SHE SAID: The Life of Pauline Kael

Controversial film critic Pauline Kael gets a loving tribute that celebrates its subject more than it provokes its viewers.

Director Rob Garver’s debut documentary feature, “What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael,” collects all the right voices, but shies away from the most challenging question: why was Kael such a contrarian?

By writing against the grain, and panning some of the most beloved films of the day, Kael gained notoriety. “What She Said,” recounts many of her scathing reviews. Of “The Sound of Music,” for instance, she said it was a “sugarcoated lie that people want to eat.”

This review and other critical critiques of popular movies resulted in her dismissal from McCall’s magazine. At the time, this was a very high profile gig for the budding film critic.

Her status as a film curmudgeon was epic. After all, who doesn’t like “Lawrence of Arabia?” Kael didn’t. And in archived footage, we hear from “Lawrence” director David Lean, who talks about how her attacks on his work impacted him. It’s easy to dismiss mean people with snarky comments, but Lean knew that despite disagreeing with her, what she said mattered, it had authoritative weight.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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