Wednesday, 4 February 2015


An ageing artiste suffers the indignity of life's callous realities, as we suffer the spectacle of the pompous clamour he arouses in futile response. That futility is actually more obnoxious than the suggestion that he might succeed in conquering the inanity of modern-day existence, since such a fallacy would have been easier to dismiss. As it is, Philip Roth wallows characteristically in the endless plight of the intellectual male, its nobility cruelly chiselled away by such frivolities as sanity, womanhood and enjoyment. The Humbling's noxious outlook on life is typical of Roth, not only in the author's bilious opinion on all but his beloved bruised males, but in his shallow portrayals of the youth, of women, of those less-than-obsessed with devoting their lives to the process of self-worship, and in the latent intolerance that bleeds through his every rambling, here dutifully presented in a film by several more old white men. That's expected; what's only slightly less expected is the inadequacy of director Barry Levinson's grip on his material. The very fundamentals of filmmaking elude Levinson here, with editing that slips between functional and baffling, a horrible lighting scheme that aims for profundity but lands somewhere in a swamp of sickly shades of brown, and an inability to gauge whether the screenplay calls for a comedic tone or a tragic one. That appears to be The Humbling's proudest feature - its mere superficial reference to Shakespeare - though it's also one of its least effective, since there's no consistency to the film as a result. Al Pacino does try, and Greta Gerwig is at a natural loss given her performance style and the risible construct of her character. The only reason this film doesn't score a lower star rating is because I've seen enough worse to grant it a little leniency; it's watchable, but only that.