(director: Barry Levinson; screenwriter: John C. Richards/Debora Cohn; cinematographer: Marcell Rev; editor: ; music: Evgueni & Sacha Galperine; cast: Al Pacino (Joe Paterno), Riley Keough (Sara Ganim), Kathy Baker (Sue Paterno, Greg Grunberg (Scott Paterno), Annie Parisse (Mary Kay Paterno), Jim Johnson (Jerry Sandusky), Darren Goldstein (Mike McQueary), Steve Coulter (Tim Curley), Benjamin Cook (Aaron Fisher), Larry Mitchell (Jay Paterno), Tom Kemp (Graham Spanier); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kelly McKee; HBO; 2018)
“Not too creative or moving.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Barry Levinson (“Diner”/”The Natural”) does fine navigating through the controversial material of the headline grabbing sexual abuse college football story of the fall from grace of the legendary Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno (Al Pacino), who didn’t do enough to stop a serial pedophile rapist on his staff even though it’s implied he knew about it. The problem is the film seems flat, not too creative or moving, adding nothing new to all the press coverage at the time. Though Pacino gives a great contained performance, the telefilm, written by Debora Cohn and John C. Richards, is only adequate at best and by being nonjudgmental doesn’t give me a reason to see it–the print story covered it just as well.
The real heroes of this story are a relentless reporter (Riley Keough) and a brave victim (Benjamin Cook), who came forward and didn’t back down. But not enough is told about the abuser, Jerry Sandusky, who skates through the story without us knowing much more about the central figure in the case than previously. The film instead pays most attention to the arrogant Joe Paterno, who the filmmaker tries his best to explain his inexplicable non-actions. But that leaves the film with not much to say since coach just wants to talk football and the sympathetic hands off approach to the coach gets to be irritating. We still don’t know why he failed to act, especially since his reputation was to be such a moral coach and a believer that his players graduate.
Though a well-constructed film, it was about as endearing as watching the Nittany Lions destroy the usual patsy they schedule in football. What it does show however is how revered and powerful a figure the 84-year-old coach, with the most wins of any coach in college football history, was on campus and that too many in the college in positions to know better or do something, ignored the scandal by looking the other way or covering it up. The film plays out as a Greek tragedy, but one that could have been told more forcefully.
REVIEWED ON 4/8/2018 GRADE: B-