Title – Paterno (2018)
Director – Barry Levinson (Rain Man)
Cast – Al Pacino, Riley Keough, Kathy Baker, Annie Parisse, Greg Grunberg
Plot – The true story of Penn State College Football coach Joe Paterno (Pacino) who finds himself embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal involving one of his long time collaborators after being crowned the winningest coach in college football history.
“You call him a legend , then treat him like a legend!”
Review by Eddie on 20/04/2018
If it does nothing else than remind you that acting legend Al Pacino still has what it takes to deliver a commanding lead performance, then HBO’s and Barry Levinson’s Paterno is worth the watch.
After what seems like years’ worth of average to bad performances in feature films (bar the loveable Danny Collins), Pacino has quietly been going about his business with some impressive projects in the world of the small screen in roles for such films and series like Phil Spector and You Don’t Know Jack and Paterno is another impressive feat for the living tressure, even if the film around him can’t quite match his on-song turn.
Much like Pacino, director Barry Levinson has struggled over the last decade or so to recapture the directing form that helped him deliver classics like Rain Man and Good Morning Vietnam in the 80’s, with forgettable 2000 films such as Envy and The Humbling doing nothing but tarnishing his reputation as a filmmaker of note, so it’s nice to see Paterno offer the talented artist a chance to showcase his abilities once more, even if this experience is a lot more dreary and dramatically focussed than we’d usually see from him.
Focussing its attentions on a very specific and publicly profiled period in the life of the aging and famed Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his entanglement in the horrific sexual abuse allegations that swirled around his onetime colleague Jerry Sandusky, Paterno offers a brief glimpse into the life of the winningest coach in college football history and how these terrible abuses tarnished his final days as a member of the Penn State fraternity.
Paterno gives Pacino one of his most quietly devastating performances to date, there’s no showy moments here and under some impressive makeup, Pacino utterly convinces as the recognisable and well-loved American figure even if the film around him does feel like it can’t quite escape its TV movie origins.
With Levinson focussing so much of his time on Paterno, other characters within the film feel rather underdeveloped and lacking in screen time but with Paterno taking centre stage, we are gifted into an insight into a haunted man who is slowly but surely coming to the realisation that despite all the good he has done, a misguided and terribly misjudged component of his life will be what he takes to his grave.
Final Say –
It feels and acts like the TV movie that it is but thanks to Pacino’s commanding turn and the insight it offers us into a particular time in the life of one of the most fascinating football figures ever to have lived, Paterno is a cut-above other similar TV biopics and a reminder to us all that Pacino still has what it takes to anchor a feature film.
3 ½ campus riots out of 5