Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Greta Gerwig and Al Pacino
THE HUMBLING (2014). Director: Barry Levinson.

Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is an actor who suffers a nervous breakdown, leaves the institution where he was ensconced, and returns home to find himself playing host to the daughter of some family friends. Pegeen (Greta Gerwig) has always had a crush on Simon, or so she says, and the two embark upon an affair, which is not only complicated by the age difference but by Pegeen's decided preference for females. Right off the bat let me say that Pacino gives a terrific performance, Oscar-worthy in fact, but The Humbling, although never tedious, is not a very good picture. Based on a novel by Philip Roth, its attitude towards LGBT characters, including Pegeen and others, is dated at the least and insensitive at the worst. [The notion that she dresses in a more feminine manner as she moves from women to a man is as offensive as it is ludicrous, and her sexuality is never really dealt with in any honest fashion, although it's clear she's upset that her female lover had a sex change.] Gerwig, Charles Grodin (Simon's agent), Dianne Wiest (Pegeen's mother), Dylan Baker (Simon's shrink), Billy Porter (a transgender man who was once Pegeen's female lover), and Kyra Sedgwick (another patient who wants Simon to kill her husband) are all excellent, and there are some good scenes and amusing moments, but this should have been so much more than a "hot lesbian" dirty joke; it never quite gets past that foolish notion [despite the fact it may only be meant to illustrate the insanity of Simon's life]. With a writer, director, and star all over seventy, one might not expect modern-day attitudes, but being old is no excuse for being old-fashioned. As with Scent of a Woman, Pacino sometimes does superlative work in movies that aren't worth his attention, although one can understand why he took this great part. This is another Pacino movie, after Gigli, where a woman who is basically a lesbian sleeps with a man for no good reason except perhaps to titillate some "Old Straight Guys" who love the notion of deflowering or "turning" a lesbian. Well, at least this isn't Cruising!

NOTE: The studio obviously had little faith in the film. It was on DVD within what seemed like two weeks and was streaming on Amazon the same weekend it opened in theaters!

Verdict: Some old men really are old poops -- but Pacino is outstanding. **1/2.

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