“Life Itself” has emerged as one of the worst-reviewed films of the year, and no one is more surprised than its director. “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman lashed out at “white male critics who don’t like anything that has emotion” following his TIFF drama’s negative reception, prompting many to point out that, of the 17 Rotten Tomatoes reviews penned by women, just two were positive. In a new Los Angeles Times interview, he backtracks on those earlier claims — and reveals why the negativity came as such a surprise.
First and foremost is the fact that nearly every non-critic who’s seen “Life Itself” this year appears to have loved it. It nearly brought a speechless Warren Beatty to tears, Mandy Patinkin (who co-stars in the film) referred to its script as “the greatest screenplay I’ve ever read in my life,” and the film was accepted by Sundance but Amazon, who bought it for north of $10 million prior to the festival, opted for a more Oscar-friendly Toronto premiere instead.
“I’m told it was one of the biggest sales [in] the history of independent film,” Fogelman says. “Had it gone to film festivals, it would have broken records.”
As for the reviews, he’s changed his tune — slightly. “I think I just have a wildly different creative palette than the cynical film critic,” Fogelman explains. “And that’s OK. I like different things than they like sometimes but not — not in a bad way. My hope is that it will be warmly received in that way and kind of be able to split the difference of both worlds the way that [‘This Is Us’] has.”
“Obviously, it’s always disappointing, especially when it happens to something so personal to you,” he adds. “But it’s the life I’ve chosen: Critics have generally been kind to me over the years, and part of the gig is that you don’t get to pick and choose when you get to listen.”