The season of 'Inception' begins, but where will it end?
The A-list critics on Friday weighed in on "Inception," and their reaction has been ... diverse. The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan embraced the film ("If you're searching for smart and nervy popular entertainment, this is what it looks like"), while the New York Times' A.O. Scott was more lukewarm. (It "gestures in the direction of mighty philosophical questions that Mr. Nolan is finally too tactful, too timid or perhaps just too busy to engage. ... The accomplishments of 'Inception' are mainly technical.") And so it goes.All of this come as expectations for the film's commercial performance climb ever-higher. My colleague Ben Fritz notes that box office receipts this weekend could reach $45 million. Several experts we've dropped the question on say it could go as high as $55 million or even $60 million -- a number that would make it the fifth-highest-grossing movie of the summer and serve as an unusual testament to the power of a name-brand director.
Key to the film reaching that figure will be how it fares among some of the groups with which it has shown weakness in pre-release tracking, particularly older women.
Earlier this week, at the film's premiere in Hollywood, the stars told my colleague Amy Kaufman that they feel the hype attendant to Nolan's film. "I think there are probably expectations," said co-star Cillian Murphy, "but I think the film will definitely live up to those because it does deliver on so many different levels."
How much those expectations help or hurt it remain to be seen. Certainly they drive opening-weekend curiosity. After that, it's the film's buzz that usually takes over. And that's where things get tricky. The movie's complexity could, on one hand (level?), put a damper on word-of-mouth, even as the conversation that complexity spurs could drive people to see what the fuss is all about. For a movie whose reception and interpretations have been all over the map, it only stands to reason that its commercial prospects follow suit.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page in "Inception." Credit: Warner Bros.