HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Humbling
HTS Overall Score:63
An actor who gets so into his role that he cannot separate reality from fiction. An interesting premise and one that I was actually really looking forward to. From the writer of “The Graduate” and the director of “Rainman” together with Al Pacino seemed like a dream come true. Pacino has been acting in some rather questionable DTV movies lately, but this trio seemed like it could deliver the goods, DTV or not. Unfortunately the premise of the movie was more interesting than the actual finished product as director Barry Levinson ends up alienating the audience and creating a movie that is very difficult to slog through with his endeavor at exploring schizophrenia in an aging actor.
Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is an aging actor who is submitted to a mental institution after a horrible stage incident. Treated and released on his own recognizance, Simon is now living in his country estate and conversing with his psychiatrist via skype at least once a week. While there he settles into an intimate relationship with a lesbian named Peegan (Greta Gerwig), where things start to get interesting. Things seem to be going well until an obsessed fan follows Simon to his estate and entreats him multiple times to kill her monster of a husband for her. At this point in the film it becomes obvious that reality and fiction are being blurred in the story. As time goes on it becomes harder and harder to actually distinguish the reality that Simon sees and the reality that everyone else sees. I think there were actually only TWO times in the movie that I can think of (both near the end) where the audience actually sees reality. The rest of the time the audience is so confused and disoriented that no amount of explanation could bring light to this darkness.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40642[/img]The premise behind the movie was sound. Follow a man into the deepest and darkest corners of his schizophrenia by allowing the audience to see things through his eyes. The only problem with keeping the audience seeing ONLY through the eyes of the mentally ill is that there is no way to differentiate between reality and the mental jumblings of Simon. There’s no breaking above water for a breath of oxygen, no startling snap to reality so that we can get out bearings. Instead we are along for the mentally deranged ridge of a man coping with his mental illness. The result is that the audience becomes alienated and loses interest. By the second act I was fading fast as the reality set in that we didn’t know what was happening in the real world. There were moments where the director may have tried to guide us through, especially with the use of a ringtone that seemed to signal a change in reality/fiction, but that device fizzled into nothingness, leaving us even more confused than we were at the beginning.
I really wanted to like “The Humbling”. Al Pacino is an incredible actor, but the aimlessness of the movie hampered any enjoyment that I could have had and ended up really souring me on the whole concept. The movie felt about as relatable as a martian coming to earth for the first time. Al Pacino was the only bright spot in the movie, as his performance was the most solid. Lately he’s been phoning his roles in for these DTV movies, but you can tell he actually was into the role. It didn’t help that his role was playing a slack jawed old man, but he definitely was the strongest of the bunch. Greta is admirable in her portrayal of the young 30 ish year old romance interest, but the rest of the cast only had a few lines here and there, so it’s difficult to really rate them as good or bad.
Rated R for sexual material, language and brief violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40650[/img]Shot in 2.39:1 scope, “The Humbling” is a satisfactory, but largely unimpressive video encode. The picture is rather drab and devoid of much color or pop. Colors tend to be desaturated and relegated to dim primaries and dull greys. The image is rather flat with some decent detail, especially in the interior shots of Simon’s aging mansion. Contrasts are well balanced and black levels look decent, however the skin tones look a bit sickly due to the desaturated color grading. The movie was shot with digital cameras and the results are definitely a bit low budget. Small amounts of digital noise are present and there is a bit of black crush in the dimmer scenes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=40658[/img]The 5.1 TrueHD lossless tracks fairs a little bit better than the video encode. As with most dramas (especially those on a low budget), the track is a bit front heavy with a majority of the work being in those three main speakers. The dialog is clean and clear and well balanced with the minimalistic effects. Surrounds are relegated to mostly music, and then left alone for the rest of the movie. The same goes for the LFE channel, as it really only shows any muscle during the score, and even then, not a whole lot. There’s minimal directional queues and panning in the front channels. If this was a 3.1 or 3.0 track I would give this a round of applause, but as a fully immersive 5.1 track it is a bit lackluster.
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“The Humbling” is something of a disappointment for me, as I had much higher hopes for the film due to the talent involved. Instead of a solid little drama based upon the intriguing premise of watching an actor slip into madness through his own eyes, we get a confusing drama that alienates the very people it’s trying to reach by not giving enough frames of reference so that they don’t feel lost and confused. I always hesitate to give low ratings on a film because there is almost always SOMETHING that may be of interest to someone, but unfortunately for “The Humbling” I can’t give it a recommendation. Skip It.
Starring: Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest, Greta Gerwig
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Buck Henry (Screenplay) Phillip Roth (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Millennium Media
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 17th 2015
Buy The Humbling On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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