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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Humbling 2014 * * Stars


In truth, I've always thought of Barry Levinson as a brilliant director. But in the last twenty years or so, he seems to have tapered off into experimental territory what with stuff like What Just Happened, Rock the Kasbah, and 2014's The Humbling (my latest review). Man I miss Levinson's 80s brand of enriched storytelling and heartened spectacle. With The Humbling however, he decides to give the viewer a diluted character study with leaden hues that could "humble" anyone behind the lens. 

"Humbling" stars Al Pacino as Simon, a washed-up actor who seems to have lost his way while in seclusion after a health-related incident via a Broadway play. What does Simon do in this spare time away from the biz? Well he gets involved with a bisexual female fan (Pegeen played by Greta Gerwig) and gets implicated in a spousal murder plot that he tries to avoid from the beginning. 

Pacino in bumbling, stumbling body language mode, gives a naturalistic performance as only Al can do. I mean you can't even tell he's acting with the camera kinda peeking in and moving like a jilted handheld. Pacino's Simon is a wannabe recluse. He looks weathered, haggard, and exhausted, with his big hair about to fly off his head like birds going south for the winter. 

Levinson sans a savvy editor, puts Pacino's Simon in every frame, his scenes jotting back and forth between disturbing fantasy and reality. Other well-known troupers (Kyra Sedgwick, Dianne Wiest, Charles Grodin) appear in and out of Simon's plight, their characters ill-defined and fading making The Humbling a stylish yet fragmentary experience to sit through. So yeah, I mentioned in the first paragraph that Barry Levinson was in a go-ahead phase. One wishes he would ditch this arthouse, folly swipe and just get back to basics. Crusty "humble" pie. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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