Film Review: “The Humbling” (2014)


Simon Axler`s is an aged actor, whose life is turned upside down when he meets Pegeen, an attractive lady who is much younger than himself.  The significant age difference and the fact that Pegeen is a lesbian does not stop the two from having an affair, which will turn a new page in both their lives. But how far can this relationship take Simon if he can`t even control his own life?

The Humbling, based on Philip Roth`s novel, begins with Simon, who is getting ready for a live performance. As we watch him become more and more nervous, we soon find him on the stage, where a bored audience is texting, yawning, or sleeping;  not watching Simon`s poor performance that he so unconvincingly tries to deliver. Finding himself in a desperate situation, Simon decides to throw himself off of the stage, onto the floor, where he immediately draws the attention he wants so much. Soon after this episode, Simon encounters another problem and he suddenly realizes that he no longer wants to live this life, so he decides to commit suicide. But that ends up the same way as his stage performance, where he once again fails, but this time at pulling the trigger.

And things do not get any better, or less complicated, when Pegeen enters his already problematic life. Pegeen, who is portrayed very well by Greta Gerwig, is a lesbian, who has recently broke up with her girlfriend, Priscilla (Billy Porter). Soon after, Pegeen confesses to Simon that she was just eight years old when she started thinking of forty year old Simon in an inappropriate way, and she has never been ashamed of this. However, once the audience reaches the point where Simon actually tries to make his comeback to the stage, the viewer loses a sense of reality for the hero. Al Pacino delivers the kind of performance where it is almost impossible to read his character; either he is an old retired actor who goes crazy, or just an old man who still wants to live his life to the fullest, even though that life is a roller-coaster…

It`s amazing to see Greta Gerwig’s performance in The Humbling, where she shares the same screen with Al Pacino, Dianne Weist and Dan Hedaya. Gerwig does her best to ensure that her performance won`t fade away or go unnoticed with these heavy-weight actors whose appearance on the screen can outshine any young actor. Barry Levinson (RAIN MAN) who directs this film rights a hilarious dialogue where he makes Al Pacino intentionally funny, Pacino himself delivers an intriguing performance as an aged actor who loses his ability, not just to act, but also to remember his lines. Even though there is a big difference between Pacino and his character, they still share one thing- they both don`t want to give up and still seeks perfection in their performance.

In conclusion, The Humbling is an intellectually interesting film, where only a selected few in the audience may get the main point of the story. It`s well directed and adapted to the screen, where at some point you, as Simon himself, will not know when the thin line is being crossed, leaving you almost as lost as it’s hero. For those who want to see a thinking film, The Humbling is the right choice for you.  Pacino/Gerwig look so adorable together proving once again that there is no such thing as ‘an age difference’ that it’s only a perception. The Humbling is a good example of this and certainly a must-see film.

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