Reviews of Barry Levinson's “The Humbling” out of the Venice Film Festival, where the Philip Roth adaptation premiered in competition, seemed mixed at best. Our own Catherine Bray dumped pretty hard on it, mostly bewildered about the choice of source material and the neutering of its gratuitousness. The “watering down” of “Roth's smut,” she surmised, leaves the viewer with “just some mumbling from Pacino about how he don't get no respect.” Others were kinder, still others not, but no matter, as a newly configured Millennium Entertainment has picked up the film with an eye toward insinuating it into the Oscar conversation.
To be fair, Pacino did get his share of praise for the performance, which would have to pull off a miracle to really compete in this year's impenetrable Best Actor field. The New York Post's Lou Lumenick called it maybe the best thing the actor has done this century. Though some of the love was in the form of backhanded compliments. “Pacino [is] the least hammy thing about this turkey,” etc.
The film went on to Toronto where it sort of fell through the cracks, along with the actor's other Venice bow, David Gordon Green's “Manglehorn.” Showbiz 411's Roger Friedman seems to think that had something to do with the choice of PR firm, but whatever the case, “The Humbling” hasn't secured a lot of traction so any distributor looking to maneuver it through the season is staring at an uphill battle, to put it lightly.
Oddly enough, Pacino hasn't been on the Oscar circuit since he won the award for 1992's “Scent of a Woman.” That was the capper on his first “comeback.” Does he have another one in him? I haven't seen “The Humbling,” so I can't speak to that, but I do think he tapped into something intriguing with “Manglehorn.” Thought it seemed more a byproduct of the collaboration with Green, who finds himself in an interesting place in his career right now, examining movie stardom with stuff like this and “Joe” with Nicolas Cage, sort of off on his own thoughtful tangent.
Come what may, good luck to Millennium. They've got their work cut out for them.