This afternoon I enjoyed nice easy chats with Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig, the leads of Barry Levinson‘s The Humbling (Millennium, 1.15.15), which had its first peek-out in Toronto. There’s no point in claiming it was 100% praised, but for me there’s an amusing easy-chair quality about The Humbling. It’s a mildly perverse thing, shot in and around Levinson’s home in Redding and other Fairfield County environs (where I hail from). For my money Pacino’s Simon Axler, an aging, louche, has-been actor, is worth the price — Al really knows from jaded aplomb. And I enjoyed the combustible, tilt-angle relationship that occurs between him and Gerwig’s Pegeen Stapleford, a lesbian who decides to have a whirl at a heterosexual dalliance when Pacino rolls into the room, partly because she had a crush on him when young.

Pacino and I lasted 24 minutes, and then I did 18 with Greta. I asked Pacino to confirm that autograph story that Peter Rainer shared the other night; turns out Rainer told it just right. I also asked Pacino who does the best Tony Montana impression he’s ever seen, and he said Johnny Depp.

I know I liked The Humbling a lot more than Pacino’s other Toronto flick, David Gordon Green‘s Manglehorn, which seemed a bit morose.

From my 9.9.14 Humbling review: “The Humbling is a meditation 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. It’s 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 better than Manglehorn because (a) Pacino’s famous-actor character is richer than his Texan 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) 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 as 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.'”