#venezia71 “the humbling” review

Text by: Francesco Alò
Translation: Bianca Baroni
Photo: Alessio Costantino

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Horrors and mistakes are back at the 71st edition of Venice Film Festival.
After Birdman and She’s Funny That Way it’s the turn of another milestone of Hollywood, that with the Bogdanovich of She’s Funny That Way is ready to confirm to be more comfortable with comedy instead of the acrobatic and ambitious Birdman’s Iñárritu.
Once again, an actor in trouble, curtain, stage floorboard and big “egological” problems.
Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is over his sixties and realized huge blockbuster in the past, while now lives in the intimate dimension of the theatre. In every inch, the situations looks like Birman’s Riggan Thoomas, with his “egological” problems that start to curse him with nightmares in Fellini’s style, in which he can’t enter the theatre though the show is his own. Simon can’t tell reality from finction and when he talks he doesn’t understand if he’s acting or telling the truth. Furthermore, he has an aching back, his career is fading away and he is in his sixties (and then he will be in this seventies!!): these things lead to a neurotic collapse in the first ten minutes. And then, you start laughing.

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What could become the moving rehabilitation of a great actor turns into a wacky philosophical movie (Barry Levinson began his carreer as comic actor and scriptwriter for Mel Brooks, we shouldn’t forget about that), in which Simon, once become a bit crazy, will go in his countryside house to be cured, but instead he will be literaly attacked by people crazier than himself. One will ask him to kill the pedophile husband (truth or not?); another will seduce him and stay withi him for the greatest part of the movie, as if she was a child once in love with him, the daughter of two old friends, that know has become a big girl with a long tongue and a great collection of dildos (again, truth or not?). It’s all in the interaction between a great Greta Gerwig, lesbian but not that much (she’s the ex-kid now woman) and Al Pacino, brilliantly confused, more passive than active. We are in fronto of a fall entertainment between two big of the cinema ( Levinson, Pacino and Buck Henry is the scriptwriter) + one of the most interesting actress of this period (Gerwig). Once again, it’s the collaboration between old and young, just like for She’s Funny That Way with Anderson and Baumbach (gerwing’s partner), which enriched the matured cocktail made by Bogdanovich. But wouldn’t it be nice if, for example, Sydney Sibilia made a movie with Ettore Scola? If you like to see Pacino humiliated and insulted by Dianne Wiest (Gerwig’s rancorous mother), while he can only aswer mumbling meaningless words because he’s been sedated with a strong dog anodine, that’s the movie for you. We have found it something freely jazzy, elegant, with an excellent editing (it’s filled with constant flashforwards and flashbacks, alternated, in which he skypes with a Dylan Baker in his role of psychologist just like in Happiness).

It’s a nonsense movie for old people who wants to leave the scene dancing as they like. What if the big lesbian (but not that much) that has this funny relationship with Simon would have the same value of the birdman who whisper into Riggan Thoman’s mind?
In The Humbling, it can be all or nothing. You only have to let yourself go to the sophisticated senile entertainment in which it’s all about making fun of old Pacino. In fact, his weird girlfirend will suddenly tell him “I’m not hetero!”, forcing him to have strange conversationss with her ex girlfirend now become an hilarious dapper afroamerican, played by a man, Billy Porter.
In other words… imagine Roman Polanski who meets Mel Brooks and you will get The Humbling, whose only flaw is not to have made the nonsense last till the end, trying to dignify the whole situation with some drama in the finale. What a shame.
Rain Man’s director must have clearly thought, together with Buck Henry, that Philip Roth’s book, by which they got inspiration, needed a less anarchic finale.
What about Pacino? We already knew he was completely void of pomposity, since he mortified himself with his own hands, interpreting himself in Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill. Here he’s simply great. Only a genius can pretend to be an idiot, it doesn’t happen vice versa. So, how can individualism be tackled? Laughing and losing. Or conversely.

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