Strategies for Effective Critiques of Movies, Books, Music and More
No matter what kind of review you write, it’s important to develop a clear thesis and evidence to support your opinions. You have no doubt read reviews of the latest blockbuster movie, bestselling novel, or hot CD and said to yourself, “What an easy job. I could do that!” The fact is a review can be one of the most difficult forms of writing. It may seem simple at first—we all have strong opinions, and a review is simply our opinion about a product or service, right? In reality, a review should be more than just a rant about how good or bad something is. Like any argument, a review needs a clear thesis and evidence to support your opinions.
Start With a Category and a Definition
Whether you are writing a review on a book, movie, restaurant, or cell phone, you need to start by putting your subject in a category. This will narrow your focus and allow to you create a more effective argument. When discussing music, literature, and film/TV, we call these categories genres. If you are reviewing a movie, what kind of movie is it? A romance? A comedy? Historical drama? Biography? Be sure that you understand the genre conventions and audience expectations related to that genre.
Develop Clear Criteria
Once you have put your subject into a category, you need to develop a clear list of criteria on which you will base your judgment. What makes a good (fill in the blank with your category)? This list does not have to be explicitly stated in your review, but it should be clearly implied in your writing. A list of criteria is important because it forces the writer to go beyond blanket summaries of the subject and vague opinions. Criteria give the writer something to sink his teeth into. Do not skip this step.
Make a Judgment
Once you have outlined what criteria you are using you can make a clear and reasoned judgment. Decide what you want to say about the subject overall. Avoid generalities such as “best” or “worst.” Your readers won’t believe you if you appear too passionately positive or negative. Rather, make a reasoned judgment and develop it into a working thesis statement.
Like any good argument, you need to back up your claims with evidence. The good news is that your evidence will come directly from the subject itself in the form of examples. If you are reviewing a movie, give examples from the movie to support your position. If you say the characters in the book are not believable, provide an example from the book that illustrates this point.
Sum It All Up
Be sure to sum up your conclusions at the end of your review. This will bring closure to the piece and reiterate your ideas. The biggest mistake review writers make is giving too much summary and not enough clear criteria. Keep this in mind as you put on your critic’s hat and write your first review. Be critical rather than summative—we don’t want you to spoil the movie!
Write to Meet Audience Expectations
Most of you have never published your writing, but reviews are meant to be read by the public. They persuade readers to either experience or avoid particular things. Therefore, reviews must be written to specific audiences and with a mind toward the discourse community in which you will participate and the audience is a part. With this in mind, think about a specific publication that might be a good fit for your review and examine that community’s use of the review genre and its expectations regarding lexis (language use, style, tone, etc.).
Length: At least 800 words
Format: Typed and formatted according to MLA guidelines (formatting and citations)