The Humbling (2014)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB

USA, 2014.  Ambi Pictures, Hammerton Productions, Stonelock Pictures.  Screenplay by , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by Barry Levinson, , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

An aging actor (Al Pacino) struggling to keep control over his work and his life loses the will to go on and throws himself off a stage midway through a Broadway performance of As You Like It. He checks himself into a clinic before being released and sent home to his country estate to recover, where he is soon visited by his young goddaughter () whom he has not seen in years. She catches him up on her life, about teaching at the nearby college and her relationship with her partner () before throwing herself on him physically and announcing that she is bent on fulfilling a sexual fantasy she has held onto about him since childhood. The idea of these two, with at least forty years between them, having sexual congress is a lot to take even if you grew up watching Audrey Hepburn movies, but thankfully the plot is well aware of the dynamic and makes frequent reference to their age difference, as well as humorous jabs at the limitations of sex for a man of Pacino’s age (even when his machinery works, his back gives out). The bad taste this film leaves is not the prurient nature of its story but the ragged manner in which it is told, for while the entire cast (which also includes the terrific  and, in the film’s best work, a stunning Dianne Wiest) give terrific performances, the slack pacing and rambling narrative never quite know which way to go. Gerwig’s character is less a mysterious collection of contradictions than simply an impossible collection of disjointed human traits, while the plot is interrupted by dream sequences that undercut the narrative instead of adding any kind of insight to our protagonist’s nature. It’s downright terrible, but go ahead and watch it if you’re a fan of anyone involved.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2014

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