It’s Only A Movie is the memoir of one of England’s most respected film critics, telling you how he got to be in that position. As it turns out, the answer is having talent, refusing to take no for an answer, lying about your experience, and being absolutely terrible at driving a delivery van.
He mentions early on that this book isn’t really an autobiography, so you won’t find any sordid tales of his childhood or any kiss-and-tell moments. He freely admits that many events in the movie of his life (i.e, the book), in which he is played by his old classmate Jason Issacs, will not have actually played out as he remembers them. The persona that he projects in this book is that of a lovable fool who really loves his job. There’s a moment in the book where he meets Linda Blair, star of The Exorcist, which makes me wonder if he still gets excited at meeting his heroes or if he’s become used to it by now.
As somebody who is trying to become a professional critic, reading how he managed it was a fascinating experience (he remarks that he thought that film screenings were something mystical before it turned out that you just had to be invited by somebody “in the know”). It’s interesting to note that the years of hard work getting his doctorate are barely mentioned to make way for anecdotes on Werner Herzog getting shot while being interviewed by him (which you can see for yourself on YouTube) and getting punched in the face for giving Blue Velvet a bad review.
Listeners to his radio show on BBC Radio 5 Live may have heard some of these anecdotes before, although I’m not a regular listener so I don’t know. I came across him thanks to TV Tropes and the documentary that he did about The Shawshank Redemption. To someone who hadn’t heard them before, they were hilarious. My favorite anecdotes of his are the first attempt he made at radio broadcasting (the lying mentioned in the first paragraph), wherein he accidentally gets more radio gigs by “pretending” that he didn’t know what he was doing, the time his body forced him to kneel in front of Queen Mirren as she chastised him for his recent review of her movie, The Queen and the section of the book where he reproduces his radio review of Mamma Mia! for the printed page and it’s still hilarious.
I enjoyed Kermode’s style of writing, which makes sense as I enjoy his radio reviews. I found myself laughing a lot at some of the more colorful anecdotes he tells. One way of finding out whether you’ll enjoy this book is by watching some of the videos from his radio show on his YouTube channel. If you like those, then this book is probably for you. His reviews of Transformers 3 and Sex And The City 2 are excellent.
I realize that I’m not the best person to be giving an objective opinion. But do you know why that is? It’s because I started laughing on page four and didn’t stop. If you like film and enjoy the work of Mark Kermode in whatever form, then you’ll like this.