The Humbling

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Humbling Movie Poster Image
Aging actor blends truth and fantasy in slow, mature drama.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 113 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

An aging, disconnected actor discovers new reasons to become interested in living life and pursuing meaningful work.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Simon is crying out for attention to the point that he seems to be imagining critical interactions with his much younger girlfriend. He becomes reinvigorated by returning to the stage, but it's not clear whether he's able to separate fact and fantasy.

Violence

A couple engages in a bitter argument, with yelling and screaming. An actor engages in a violent act on stage that might not be in the script, possibly using a real weapon. A man comes close to killing himself with a shotgun, and a woman repeatedly talks about killing her husband. A woman describes seeing her daughter being sexually abused.

Sex

A couple talks frequently about their active sex life; it's not really shown on screen, but a threesome is depicted mostly as moving shadows. A woman has an extensive collection of sex toys, which are seen and described in a graphic, humorous way. In one scene she plays with one under the covers. Several discussions center on a character's gender identity. Kissing.

Language

Frequent swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine and other alcoholic beverages at home, with meals, and in bars; nobody ever seems particularly drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Humbling stars Al Pacino as an aging actor who becomes involved with a much younger woman (Greta Gerwig). They have frank discussions about sex, especially her past relationships with women and her extensive collection of sex toys (in one scene she plays with one under the covers). There's kissing, and a threesome is depicted as a shadowy encounter. Expect moderate drinking and some swearing, including "f--k" and "s--t," plus one near-suicide and a description of sexual abuse. Several discussions center on a transsexual character's transition and gender identity.

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What's the story?

Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is an aging stage actor who's lost his groove and spends most of his time moping around the house -- until he takes up with a friend's much younger daughter (Greta Gerwig). The relationship proves an inspiration, prompting a revitalized passion for life and acting. The only complication is that it's not entirely clear that everything happening to Simon, much of which viewers hear about as he recounts events to his therapist, is actually real.

Is it any good?

Pacino is the emotional anchor of THE HUMBLING. Though he's been known to oversell his roles, here he folds into himself. It's a muted performance that sometimes works but often doesn't. Not much happens in the film, and what does occur seems less exciting to viewers because Pacino seems so uninterested in what he's doing. The Humbling begins with a sequence that feels otherworldly and not quite real, and questions about what's actually happening and what's in Simon's head will linger to the end. But will the audience care? Probably not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Humbling depicts Simon's mental status. How much of the film do you think is really happening to him, and how much is in his head? Is any of it real? 

  • Do Simon and Pegeen seem like a believable couple? How does the significant age gap affect their relationship? How does theirs compare with other May-December romances you've seen in the movies and on TV?

  • What role does sex play in the movie? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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