EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a capsule review. The full review will be released once the film hits theatres.
Al Pacino delivers a monologue early in The Humbling that’s going to be a go-to among community theatre auditions for years to come. Pacino, playing a washed-up actor who’s lost the stage spark that gave him life, is opening up to a support group in a mental ward he’s working out his suicidal thoughts in. Even without the metatextual boost of this being Pacino pouring his heart out about what life past your prime does to an actor, it’s a moving speech that the man underplays with soulful, weary honesty.
It’s the sort of scene they’d use for Pacino’s nomination reel at next year’s Oscars, were it not for the fact that just about everything following The Humbling’s big speech is a clusterbomb disaster. Based on Philip Roth’s book of the same name, The Humbling wants to be a melancholy, theatrical reflection on old age, while also being a kooky sex farce comedy. Pacino’s Simon Axler is both punching bag and straight man to a cavalcade of broadly drawn caricatures of sexuality and humanity that drag down usually terrific performers like Greta Gerwig in a navel-gazing whirlpool.
The energy vacuum Pacino leaves by toning down the ferocity that made him famous, and then a bit of a punchline, is replaced twofold by the supporting cast. The Humbling grows more manic and loopy as Axler’s mind starts playing tricks on him. Thing is, fake-out scenes of masculine self-indulgence are hardly distinguishable from all the self-pitying, self-romanticizing of Axler The Humbling does when playing things honest. Partnering a Big Actor comeback story with an indie star actress, and slathering the whole thing in quirk meant to foster an arthouse hit, The Humbling is a pic only a producer could love.
The film will open in theatres in Toronto, Calgary, Saskatoon, Victoria, Regina (Feb 13) and VOD Canada wide.
The Humbling makes for a Thanksgiving feast, but it's Pacino who's the least hammy thing about this turkey.