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'A.I.': Lessons From a Robot Boy and His Mother

Pro * Critical appreciation for Spielberg's vision of family life will grow with time.

July 23, 2001|HARVEY WEINSTEIN | Harvey Weinstein is co-chairman of Miramax

I've enjoyed Patrick Goldstein's columns over the past several months, but his recent examination of the critical reaction to "A.I." ("Reviewers' 'A.I.' May be 'Aging, Irrelevant'," July 17) puts me in a position I never thought I'd find myself: defending America's film critics. Since Patrick is a provocateur, and a good one, I'm sure he won't mind hearing from his loyal opposition.

While I certainly can appreciate Patrick's assertion that sometimes critics are not in touch with audiences, I believe that many Americans will eventually share Tony Scott, Lisa Schwarzbaum and other top critics' appreciation for "A.I." for the reason expressed by one that "it made me think, there was substance and subtext [and] there was something to talk about."

Over the years, American audiences (and even many film critics) have not always recognized the greatness of many of Stanley Kubrick's films. I remember seeing Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" in the U.S. in 1975 (I'd love to say I was in grade school, but I wasn't), when the reaction from American critics and audiences was not kind. However, I really loved the film, so I watched it again months later, during the 40th week of a 52-week run at the Warner West End Theatre in London, where audiences loved the film, as did moviegoers throughout Europe.

It is no surprise to me that "A.I.," a film where Spielberg was loyal to Kubrick's vision, has already been a smashing success in Japan. (It may gross $100 million there alone.) As "A.I." expands its release, the rest of the world will surely embrace the film because international audiences have a different appreciation for "A.I.'s" rhythm and contemplative approach.

As the father of two young girls, I found "A.I." to be a magical and meaningful journey that had great resonance for me for its insightful parental perspective. The parent-"child" relationship in "A.I."--the love between mother and "son"--has an incredible poignancy and creates a timeless portrayal of a family history that I have not seen in a film since Orson Welles chronicled a marriage at a breakfast table in "Citizen Kane."

As in Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," Spielberg's "A.I." reinvents the fairy tale by exploring its opposite--the nightmare. In reading the original story of Pinocchio, one realizes that, unlike in Disney's animated adaptation, "A.I." truly captures its deeper, darker meaning and message. Spielberg should be applauded for his artistic ambition, and his exemplary efforts to paint this remarkable vision on a big canvas should be encouraged and not dismissed.

As for Patrick's question about whether the critics who supported "A.I." are "terminally out of touch with regular moviegoers," my answer is absolutely not.

In five years, I will make a date with Patrick to watch "A.I." again. I'm pretty sure that either he'll be a revisionist and appreciate the film or I'll be washing his windows, babysitting his kids and picking up his groceries.

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