For about two weeks, ‘Lady Bird,’ a coming of age tale directed by Greta Gerwig, was the best-reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. It sat at a perfect 100 percent score after nearly 200 reviews. And then came Cole Smithey, a film critic known for his contrarian reviews, to give the movie its first ‘rotten’ score.
Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that he originally scored the movie a B-, which is a passing grade by any standard. Let’s also ignore the fact Smithey calls himself “The Smartest Film Critic in the World.” Let’s even ignore his contrarian streak on popular well reviewed movies. It’s absolutely fine to not agree with consensus – not everyone has to enjoy Citizen Kane.
Even though I personally liked the movie, I don’t care if someone else doesn’t, and a single, honestly negative review shouldn’t take away from the film’s achievements. The problem is, Smithey basically admitted he submitted the review as rotten not necessarily because he didn’t like the movie, but simply because he didn’t like the Rotten Tomatoes score itself.
Context is everything. I had to consider whether to cast “Lady Bird” as Fresh or Rotten in the context of a perfect score that people were using to trumpet “Lady Bird” as the all-time best reviewed movie on RT. A “B-” does not an “A+” make. @RottenTomatoes @LadyBirdMovie pic.twitter.com/fR7PJ5GfZD
— Cole Smithey (@colesmithey) December 13, 2017
That’s just not how score aggregators work, especially not Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s break down the bizarreness of the logic here:
- Smithey sees the movie, thinks it’s worth a B-. The tone in his review is mixed, but the score suggests its positive overall.
- It’s worth noting that every other movie he’s given a B- to, he has submitted to Rotten Tomatoes as fresh.
- He then sees the 100 percent RT score and thinks “well, I don’t think the movie deserves a 100 percent.” Nevermind the fact that the score is a reflection of consensus, not his personal views.
- By his stated logic, in another context – if the movie didn’t have a perfect score – he might have given it a fresh rating. However, since it was sitting pretty at 100 percent, he decides to bring down the score to nudge it closer to what he thought.
- A 99 percent still counts as an A+, by the way
- Smithey then changed to score to a C+ on his website (albeit still three stars) several days after his original review, perhaps to avoid…