ASSOCIATE EDITOR LEAH ROZEN, PEOPLE’S newly named chief movie critic, has never been one to pull her punches. Panning last year’s The Mirror Has Two Faces, she observed that Barbra Streisand “is working out a lot of issues here about her appearance—on our time. Surely she can afford a therapist for this.” Rozen, 40, can be just as feisty about films she likes. “Anyone who doesn’t tear up by the end [of Marvin’s Room],” she wrote last December, “needs remedial crying lessons.”
A PEOPLE reviewer since 1991, Rozen, who sees at least 300 films a year, makes no bones about her bluntness. “Movies are expensive—up to $8.50,” she says. “So what I want to do is help people figure out which ones they’re going to really love.”
She has certainly stirred up PEOPLE readers, and her cracks about Mirror drew boos from Streisand devotees across the country. Rozen, however, is more likely to share insights than outrage, and “I often smile and chuckle when I’m reading her reviews,” says assistant managing editor Charles Leerhsen. “The Leah you read in PEOPLE is the same one you sit down with at lunch. She’s dealing with the movie from her heart and soul.”
That passion took root early. “I’ve wanted to be a film critic since I was 13,” says Rozen, whose parents, now-retired faculty members at the Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., took the second of their six children to campus showings of Charlie Chaplin shorts and other classics. “After I saw Carole Lombard in the 1937 movie Nothing Sacred,” she says, “I was a goner. In the words of Pauline Kael, who used to review for The New Yorker, I lost it at the movies.” At Penn State (class of 78), Rozen reviewed films for the college newspaper while earning a B.A. in history and journalism. After reporting stints at Advertising Age and The American Lawyer, she joined PEOPLE in 1983, working as a writer, correspondent, bureau chief and editor. But her addiction to film never wavered, and even after a 1988 bicycling accident left her bedridden, she would not be denied. “Ted Turner saved my life,” she jokes about the hours she spent glued to Turner’s TNT cable movie channel (as well as American Movie Classics) during her nearly yearlong convalescence.
Last month, Rozen assumed her new duties and immediately was telephoned by her 7-year-old niece, Melinh, who invited Aunt Leah to serve as a guest speaker at her school’s upcoming Career Day. “She told me, ‘Everyone is going to want your job,’ ” recounts Rozen. That may be—but get in line, kids.