Ian McKellen Film 'The Critic' Lands a Fall Release

Ian McKellen as the embittered and failing critic Jimmy Erskine in 'The Critic'

Ian McKellen as Jimmy Erskine in 'The Critic'

Lionsgate/True Brit

Ian McKellen is approaching 90 years old and has admitted he will not be acting full-time much longer. That makes the final films of his career all the more valuable, so it can be a little frustrating when something like The Critic, which features an all-star cast, struggles to find a distributor. Based on the novel by Anthony Quinn, Curtain Call, the mystery-thriller was initially made in 2022 and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2023. However, the film came and went with zero distributors picking it up, only finally getting picked up by Lionsgate nearly a year later.

Between its release at TIFF and Lionsgate's signing, the film was picked up by True Brit, which only agreed to a deal if the film underwent an extensive reworking of the script and reshoots of new scenes written by original screenwriter Patrick Marber specifically for the film. Though the film got mixed reviews at TIFF, the issue for True Brit was the ending, which critics described as feeling "rushed" and depressing at the time.

Exactly how the new ending will play remains to be seen, as well as whether some of the other complaints are addressed as well. But everyone seems to agree that McKellen's performance is the reason for seeing the film, and with a release date now set, viewers can decide for themselves how to feel about it.

Here's the film's synopsis:

The year is 1936. As the new steward of London’s Chronicle, David Brooke seeks to revive the financially troubled daily as the country’s most-read family paper. In the firing line is long-time theatre critic Jimmy Erksine, whose extravagant prose and personal “proclivities” are distasteful to David. Jimmy has a lot to lose as an elderly gay man in a culture and legal system deeply hostile to homosexuality. Yet he cannot resist writing the flamboyantly merciless critiques that are his trademark.

Actor Nina Land — for whom the married David secretly carries a torch — is a regular target for Jimmy’s most withering remarks. As pressure to appease his employer mounts, Jimmy concocts a plot to entrap both David and Nina — herself secretly in love with a married painter, Stephen Wyley. But with the Blackshirts taking to the streets amid anti-queer police raids, Jimmy may be grossly overestimating his ability to emerge from his elaborate scheme unscathed.

Ian McKellen leads the all-star cast as Erksine, with Gemma Arterton (Funny Woman) as Nina Land, Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) as David Brooke, and Ben Barnes (Shadow & Bone) as Stephen Wyley. The cast also co-stars Alfred Enoch (The Couple Next Door), Romola Garai (Scoop), Lesley Manville (Moonflower Murders), Claire Skinner (McDonald & Dodds), and Rebecca Gethings (Call the Midwife).

Directed by Anand Tucker and adapted by Patrick Marber, The Critic is executive-produced by Tucker, David Gilbery, Naomi George, Mark Gordon, Harry White, and Tom Butterfield.

The Critic will land in theaters on Friday, September 13, 2024.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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