The early reviews are in for the upcoming HBO movie Paterno. The film starring Al Pacino as Joe Paterno, the ex-Penn State football coach, airs Saturday, and critics are giving their feedback.
Verne Gay, a TV critic for Newsday, said that the movie directed by Barry Levinson “carefully confines itself to the record, never drifting off into speculation or supposition.” Gay also weighed in on Pacino’s performance, saying he showed multiple sides of Paterno during a complex time.
“Brilliant as ever, Pacino is the master trickster who manages to both demonize and humanize Paterno,” Gay writes.
The movie is based around a week in November 2011 when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke at Penn State. Paterno had just become the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I college football history. But he was fired days after a grand jury report surfaced and questions arose about what Paterno knew and when he knew it.
Here’s more from Gay’s review:
Levinson decided to frame the film over a week’s span in early November 2011, leading up to Paterno’s firing. Over these six days, his reputation hangs in suspended animation. He’s either about to become college football’s pre-eminent coach, or about to become the disgraced coach who did what was only minimally necessary when first told of Sandusky’s behavior in 2001.
We know the outcome, but “Paterno” makes the case that Paterno himself almost certainly did not. Pacino’s “Joe Pa” is doddering, guileless and largely inattentive. His football memory remains intact, while his memory for everything else is fallible — or worse, almost gone. “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast,” he reasonably concludes, until reminded that the guilty often fall back on that line. Mostly, he seems like he’s a sweet old man who just wants to get back to America’s game.
[…]“Paterno” carefully confines itself to the record, never drifting off into speculation or supposition. A few flashbacks pull viewers back 10 years, to huddled conversations among university officials in darkened hallways. Not a part of those, Paterno remains as distant and unknowable then as in 2011.