The Humbling

The Humbling
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The Humbling

Trasposizione cinematografica firmata da Barry Levinson del romanzo L’UMILIAZIONE di Philip Roth. Il protagonista Al Pacino si lascia sedurre da un personaggio lesbico tra i più memorabili degli ultimi anni. Lui è un attore non più giovanissimo, star sia di Broadway che del cinema, in crisi di identità (cos’è più vero nella vita? è il quotidiano o ciò che si recita sulla scena?) che in un momento di assoluto smarrimento si butta (o cade) nella buca dell’orchestra finendo poi in una clinica di recupero. Lei è la ex-bambina, figlia di una compagna di palcoscenico al tempo degli esordi, di cui è stato il padrino in tempi lontani. Il suo amore per l’uomo non si è mai spento dall’età di 8 anni nonostante i 6 lustri e più che da sempre li separano. Nel frattempo lei ha avuto molte storie amorose con molte donne, usando il suo fascino nei loro confronti anche per progredire nella carriera. Ora, superata la trentina, si ripresenta nella vita dell’attore per trovare un punto stabile in una vita balorda. Per lui, che non si è mai concesso all’amore, è la giovinezza che torna a bussare alle porte e che gli permetterebbe di recuperare la fiducia in sé stesso sia come attore che come uomo. Spende patrimoni e va quasi in rovina per la ragazza, per lei subisce umiliazioni di ogni tipo. Accetta di subire lo stolkeraggio della sua ultima ex (una accanita Kyra Sedgwick, transfuga dal serial THE CLOSER), non scaccia di casa la sua prima donna che ora ha affrontato un cambio di sesso FtoM, accetta i tradimenti con nuove compagne occasionali. Le situazioni e i dialoghi paradossali abbondano. “Non sei mai stata con un uomo?” “Non negli ultimi 16 anni” “Io non sono mai stato prima con una lesbica” “Ma forse non lo sapevi!”; o durante la cena a tre con il trans: “Vorrei trovare un posto in questa nuova situazione tra voi… ora che ti piacciono gli uomini e che io sono diventata un uomo”.  Ma i momenti più bizzarri sono in assoluto quelli tra l’attempato attore e una paziente conosciuta in clinica che vorrebbe assoldarlo come killer del marito in quanto pedofilo molestatore della figlioletta. Pacino è magistrale nel rendere il suo imbarazzo in queste scene che punteggiano tutta la vicenda come un tormentone, ma più in generale va applaudito per un’interpretazione altissima in tutto il film.  Barry Levinson gli offre una partitura in cui sfoggiare ogni gamma di sfumature dal comico al drammatico (non a caso i portafortuna del protagonista sono le due maschere greche della commedia e della tragedia), e Pacino questa partitura la usa per scatenarsi in ogni gamma di espressioni: ironiche, attonite, stupefatte, sfasciate, catatoniche, incantate… per non dire del modo in cui sa usare una voce capace di mezzi fiati spezzati a singhiozzo come di furori altrettanto inauditi (peccato che tanto grande bellezza sia destinata ad andare perduta nel doppiaggio italiano!).
Da grande attore qual è lo fa senza esibizionismi, senza gigioneggiare, con consapevole generosità verso il suo personaggio e verso gli spettori. E arriva anche a regalare il suo status di mito cinematografico al regista del film, quando gli permette di usare in modo molto ironico una sua celebre foto degli anni ’70, ai tempi di SERPICO e di QUEL POMERIGGIO DI UN GIORNO DA CANI. Greta Gerwig, nel ruolo dell’immatura lesbica, egoista e irresponsabile, riesce a reggere il confronto con tanta mostruosa bravura. La regia sa dosare e tenere sotto controllo l’intreccio di grottesco e drammatico, concedendosi parentesi di assoluta comicità come la parata dei gadget sessuali usati dalla coppia in crisi di piacere per impotenza maschile senile. Una scena che da sola vale il costo del biglietto. Per far capire come si chiude il film (perché è giusto darne un accenno) riveliamo che è di nuovo in teatro, dolce-amaro come conviene all’intera vicenda, soluzione aperta a molte soluzioni. (Sandro Avanzo)

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trailer: The Humbling

Varie

“The Humbling” tells the story of a legendary stage actor who has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age at a secluded country house in Connecticut. Based on Philip Roth’s final novel, it is a tragic comedy about a man who has lived inside his own imagination for too long.

RECENSIONI:

Pacino, who seemed to have awakened from a long acting coma when he played Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Levinson’s 2010 HBO movie, “You Don’t Know Jack,” seems similarly rejuvenated here, in what’s easily his best bigscreen performance since Christopher Nolan’s “Insomnia” in 2002. When we first meet his 67-year-old Simon Axler, it’s backstage at a Broadway production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” and Axler is getting into character as the philosophical traveler Jaques — a fascinating scene in which Pacino himself seems to be showing us how he gets into character, staring into the dressing room mirror and trying out variations on the celebrated “All the world’s a stage” speech, scrutinizing himself to see if his delivery has the ring of truth. “Do you believe that?” he asks himself. “Was that real for you?”
Indeed, all the world is a stage for Axler, who at one point asks a hospital nurse if she “believed” the moan of pain he just uttered, then tries it again. That’s shortly after Simon has swan-dived into the orchestra pit during a performance of the play, making him the hottest thing in the Broadway gossip columns since Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man” and earning himself a 30-day stay in a psychiatric hospital. He worries, he tells a group therapy session there, that he’s “lost track” of his craft, the way a musician might lose his ear for music, but even as he is supposedly baring his soul it’s clear that Simon is “on,” performing for an attentive crowd. That includes Sybil (Nina Arianda), the wife of a wealthy businessman who regales Simon with a lurid account of her husband’s sexual abuse of their young daughter. Simon was so compelling, she remembers, in a movie where he went crazy and killed all his neighbors, wouldn’t he think about doing her a favor and killing her husband for real?
And so it very much goes in “The Humbling,” in which there seems to be precious little difference between life in an asylum and the asylum of life. Thus Simon retreats to his sprawling Connecticut home (where he has never fully unpacked) and shuffles about in a semi-suicidal despair, until the sudden appearance of Pageen (Gerwig), the daughter of old actor friends, who tells Simon she harbored a massive crush on him in her youth and is now teaching at a nearby women’s college. Though Pageen claims to be a lesbian, with a trail of broken-hearted exes behind her, she rather quickly makes a play for Simon — a narrative device that seems even more far-fetched in Levinson’s film than it did in Roth’s novel (where the age difference between the characters was slightly less dramatic).
At this point, “The Humbling” might have tipped irretrievably into the realm of dirty-old-man fantasy (as many accused the novel of doing), but Levinson and Gerwig work a kind of magic on the character that makes her seem more than a misogynistic projection (unlike pretty much all the other female roles here). Pageen is an almost unplayable part pitched halfway between sex object and angel of death, in which Gerwig is required to turn on a dime from man-eating seductress to scolding shrew to insecure daddy’s girl and back again, but the actress hits all the notes with such brash confidence and sly humor that Pageen comes to seem very much the master of her own destiny. If Simon has, on some level, willed her into being, he’s the one who ends up seeming the puppet on her strings, and when Pacino and Gerwig share the screen, they have a special chemistry that comes from two gifted actors pushing each other beyond their respective comfort zones.
The rest of “The Humbling” doesn’t always rise to the same level. While the screenplay, credited to Buck Henry and Michael Zebede, has done much to curb some of the novel’s worst tendencies, the movie still devotes far too much time to the unstable Sybil and her continued efforts to implicate Simon in her husband’s murder, and on Pageen’s myriad exes (including Kyra Sedgwick as the dean of her college, and Billy Porter as a recent female-to-male gender reassignment patient), who have a habit of popping up on Simon’s estate like weeds in the garden. A device invented for the screen, of Simon appearing in periodic Skype conference with his hospital shrink (Dylan Baker), only serves to underline themes and ideas already well present in the film. But the movie rights itself once Simon is faced with two possible comebacks — a TV hair-replacement commercial, or “King Lear” on Broadway — and must reckon if he still has the actorly chops demanded by either.
As with Michael Keaton in “Birdman,” there’s the feeling that Pacino is playing close to the reality of his own topsy-turvy career here (which recently included a turn opposite Adam Sandler in the embarrassing “Jack and Jill,” a fate worse than hair-commercial hell). It’s a brave performance, not entirely lacking in its own vanity, but marked by moments in which Pacino lets go of the tics and mannerisms — the gravelly-voiced mumblings and hoo-wah! Crescendos — that have been the crutches of his late career, and the great actor stands once more revealed.
Levinson decks out the cast with a wealth of ace character actors who make the most of their fleeting appearances, including Dan Hedaya and Dianne Wiest as Pageen’s understandably aggrieved parents, and a deliciously sardonic Charles Grodin, looking like the cat who ate the canary — along with the entire birdcage — as Simon’s long-suffering agent. Shot on a low budget and a 20-day shooting schedule, mostly in and around Levinson’s own Connecticut home, “The Humbling” maintains a professional sheen that belies its limited resources, aided by Adam Jandrup’s handsome but unfussy widescreen digital cinematography (with a nice attention to the change of seasons) and Sam Lisenco’s well-appointed production design. (Scott Foundas, Variety.com)

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