This morning I saw the two Al Pacino films playing at the Toronto Film Festival — David Gordon Green‘s Manglehorn and Barry Levinson‘s The Humbling. And once again Jean-Luc Godard‘s remark about how “every fictional film is a documentary of its actors” came into play. I mainly wanted to see how Pacino, who was 73 when they were shot last year, is coming along. He seems alert and together as far as it goes, but I wish he could just return to being those guys that he was in Heat (i.e., Vincent Hanna) or The Insider (i.e., Lowell Bergman). The Humbling and Manglehorn are meditations about the perils of being an aging, fickle-ego type who’s long since given up on being a good family man or a go-alonger of any kind. Both are saying “if you’ve come this far without a loyal wife or girlfriend or a family to hang with over the holidays then fuck it…just play it like you always have. Enjoy and fulfill as best you can. Otherwise life is short and then you die.”
I liked The Humbling a bit more than Manglehorn because (a) Pacino’s famous-actor character is richer than his Texas Manglehorn locksmith, (b) if it’s a choice between a lonely, low-profile, barely-getting-by septugenarian and a well-known one who drives a nice car and still gets laid every so often, I’m with the latter, (c) HE’s own Greta Gerwig costars as a less-than-ardent lesbian, (d) the fact that Pacino lives in a nicer house in The Humbling (Levinson’s own home in Redding, Connecticut) means that any of the shit that happens is easier to tolerate or process and there’s nothing like nice digs to take the edge off, and (e) The Humbling has a whimsical “life can taste like a fucked bowl of soup but what can you do?” sense of humor. The film is based on a 2009 book by Phillip Roth, and to me that meant…I don’t want to go there.
I was hoping during The Humbling that Charles Grodin, who plays Pacino’s agent, would have a larger role. He’s really a great no-bullshit kind of guy these days. He always was, I guess, but now he’s Mr. Cut The Crap with a slightly bent-over posture and a shock of white hair and a look that says “oh, fuck me…I’m still the same guy but I look a lot older now and it feels weird.”
Honest confession: I had a little trouble recognizing Manglehorn costar Holly Hunter, who isn’t that old. Something about her eyes or her blonde hair, but I was saying to myself, “Wait…I know I’m supposed to know her but it’s not coming together.” A little later I said to myself, “If that’s Holly Hunter something’s different but what?…I just don’t see the gal who was in Broadcast News and Crash and Jane Campion‘s The Piano here…inwardly or outwardly, something’s been altered.”