The film centers on Joe Paterno, who after becoming the most successful coach in college football history, is embroiled in Penn State's Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his ... See full summary »
Al Pacino's Simon Axler says that the hardest point for any great actor is when you can tell the talent is starting to recede. I'd say the hardest for any movie critic is having to watch a great actor do a movie like "88 Minutes." Thankfully HBO has been saving Pacino's cred over the past decade, which sadly still takes another wallop with another lousy theatrical film, this an adaptation of Philip Roth's novel scripted by "The Graduate" screenwriter and renowned comedy writer Buck Henry. The fact that Henry is even still alive comes as one of the few pieces of good news in director Barry Levinson's very sloppy, very irritating, and altogether labored look at something "Birdman" managed to do so easily.
Axler is first seen looking into a mirror, chastising himself for not sounding believable enough before the curtain call for his role in "As You Like It". He winds up having a nervous breakdown (Pacino never once looks like he's not in serious bender mode); exhausted and convinced his view of reality is falling apart, he keeps a shotgun in the house because he wants to be like Ernest Hemingway if that tells you anything. But before he can off himself, Pegeen (Greta Gerwig), the lesbian daughter of one of Simon's old actor friends, shows up at his door, wanting desperately to play out a long-standing crush she's always had. It's creepy and makes no sense, but nobody in this movie seems based in reality.
Least of which the constantly self-absorbed Simon, who has some confusing, depersonalized disorder, falling in line with being this "creepy old man" out of obligation to giving an audience (who i'm assuming is Pegeen) what it wants. Yet he seems to not be rehearsing when talking with a psychiatrist (Dylan Baker) and when another mental patient (Nina Arianda) wants him to help her kill her cheating husband (because she saw him do it in a movie once) he is very unwilling to "go along with the script." "Humbling's" look at mental illness is flimsy at best, but mostly just seems like bullshit altogether.
It also doesn't make much sense to keep adding all these unnecessary, secondary characters. The contrived and impulsive Pegeen. Her harassing, crazy ex-girlfriend (Kyra Sedgewick). Her other crazy ex-girlfriend turned transsexual man (Billy Porter), who now finds it interesting she likes men and won't leave until getting his shot too. And the Nina Arianda character. At times it's like this thing just exists to jam in as many delusional people as possible, it's hard to even remember that when we started, this movie was about achieving emotional honesty. By the time we get to the ending, honesty from any of these people just seems like an afterthought.
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