The Humbling (2015)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each daydream

Take a Drink: each time Simon looks confused

Do a Shot: each time Simon grabs his shotgun

Al Pacino in John Wick 2.
Al Pacino in John Wick 2.

Take a Drink: each time Simon reminds you of Al Pacino

Do a Shot: for each darkly comedic moment

Community Review


Movie Review

By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) – 

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of the past century, with several signature roles in films like Scarface, The Godfather, and Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino has always been an actor who has evoked a great deal of passion in each role he gets, and has been able to disappear into a wide array of interesting characters. However, Pacino has not had the same success more recently.

Pacino has still given a lot of effort, but his selection of scripts has been very questionable. Films like 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill, and Two for the Money all disappointed despite having some promising aspects. Perhaps Pacino’s biggest fault was starring in Jack and Jill, which had the once acclaimed actor falling in love with a cross-dressing Adam Sandler. Pacino, however, is trying to get back to more dramatic roles with The Humbling, which despite its flaws is a welcome return for Pacino.

Don't think many directors were calling him after that role.
Don’t think many directors were calling him after that role.

Based on a Philip Roth novel, The Humbling follows Simon Axle, a washed-up actor who begins to have trouble finding passion and youth in both his life and his work. His life turns even crazier when he starts having an affair with Pegeen, a lustful lesbian.

A Toast

The aspect about The Humbling that makes the film stand out is Pacino himself, who is captivating to watch from the opening frame to the close. Pacino gives his best performance in quite some time, with him being truly convincing as the washed-up Simon. He is perfect for the part, as it not only utilizes his comedic streak and boisterous personality, but fits considering his recent resume. Pacino also thankfully is more restrained then usual, as he at times can give very hammy performances.

No flying Pelicans here…

What makes The Humbling work is the character of Simon. Scribes Buck Henry and Michal Zebede along with Pacino collaborate to make a character that feels real while being endlessly fascinating. Pacino brings a biting wit to the character, which makes his journey through aging and fighting irrelevance surprisingly entertaining while still being quite saddening.

The Humbling in a lot of ways also marks a surprise comeback for Barry Levinson, who recently faltered with What Just Happened and Man of the Year. Levinson has quite a tough balancing act to pull off here, as he is balancing telling a serious character study along with more comedic moments. Surprisingly though, Levinson is able to pull off the task, with both the more comedic and dramatic moments blending nicely.

So much wasted potential...
So much wasted potential…

From a technical aspect, The Humbling has a very distinct, yet appealing look. Levinson along with Cinematographer Adam Jandrup shoots the film with in a very murky way, which shows the character’s general uncertainty with each and every decision he makes. Jandrup also does a great job of getting some very simple, yet aesthetically pleasing shots that capture the characters in their respective states of mind.

As I mentioned before, The Humbling has a surprising streak of humor to it, that actually works quite effectively. Both Henry and Zebede create some rather creative and clever side plots that create a lot of big laughs. The standout in particular features Rob the Mob star Nina Arianda as a neurotic housewife looking to find someone to kill her husband.

Their combined neuroticism would give Woody Allen a headache.
Their combined neuroticism would give Woody Allen a headache.

Beer Two

Most of the comedic vignettes of the film work at bringing laughs, but a majority of them do not connect with the story. Sure, they show the insanity that the character is facing with the random people who come into his life, but there is too much of it, and it just get repetitive after a while.

The Humbling in general runs on for too long. While the first two acts are rather interesting and engaging, the third act meanders a great deal, with the film feeling like it’s just filling in time before it reaches its final conclusion. This did not affect me too much because of how great the ending is, but it certainly had my attention while I was watching the film.

Beer Three

The Humbling’s biggest fault in general comes with the film’s focus, or lack thereof. The film flirts with so many other characters and concepts that get in the way of the main focus of the film. Greta Gerwig is a really talented actress, but her character feels like she is in the film too long, overstaying her welcome in what was really a relatively shallow arc.

It's awkward for me to say, too...
It’s awkward for me to say ,too…


The Humbling does have its stumbles, and like Al Pacino’s hair it’s a complete mess. However, Pacino truly shines in his best performance in quite some time, in a film that is entertaining throughout and surprisingly deep. Certainly worth checking out on VOD.

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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