Monday, January 26, 2015

The Humbling Review: Better Than Birdman, In Al Pacino's Introspectively Stunning Screen Soliloquoy

While economic crisis cinema has been the prevailing political theme in candidly conceived movies, whether subtextually or not since end stage capitalism has set in, The Humbling explores the twin angst connected to the irreversible fateful loss of one's craft through aging. And who better to ignite the screen with that resonant despair, than one of the film world's greatest thespian treasures possibly in joint contemplation of his own advancing decline, Al Pacino.

Adapted from the Philip Roth novel and directed by Barry Levinson, The Humbling shines with  a literary, existentially rich glow derived from the cinematic fusion of these three master craftsmen. As the film delves into the physical, psychological, and emotional freakout of celebrity Broadway stage and screen actor Simon Axler (Pacino), pushing seventy and increasingly aware of the fadeout of his faculties, of both the body and mind.

Failing to get a grip on his doomed diminishing capacities, or in some cases imagined disintegration, Axler retreats to a hermetic existence at his remote Connecticut estate. Or so he incorrectly thinks, as Axler is pursued there by an assortment of primarily annoying female kooks who progressively lead him to doubt his own sanity.

And including thirtysomething comparative youngster and ambivalent lesbian daughter of a theatrical colleague who has admired Axler since childhood - and is beyond eager intent on seducing him -  Pegeen (Greta Gerwig). Along with his increasing inability to separate the characters he plays from his real life, creating a hallucinatory cross-pollination in his mind which doesn't in the least help matters - not even with regular session kicking in courtesy of his Internet shrink (Dylan Baker), alternately via Skype and smartphone.

The Humbling's drama within a drama is deliciously weird when not toxic wicked fun. And actually better than Birdman, with its more poignant, less pretentious introspective grasp of the raw and revealing truths connected to the ironic and elusive notions of art, existence, identity, self-worth, fame - and the inevitable transience of life negating everything else.

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