The Humbling (film)

The Humbling is a 2014 erotic comedy-drama film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Buck Henry and Michal Zebede, based on the 2009 novel The Humbling by Philip Roth. The film stars Al Pacino, Greta Gerwig, Dianne Wiest, Charles Grodin and Kyra Sedgwick.

The Humbling
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Levinson
Produced byAl Pacino
Jason Sosnoff
Monika Bacardi
Ged Dickersin
Kristina Dubin
Andrea Iervolino
Gisella Marengo
Written byBuck Henry
Michal Zebede
Based onThe Humbling
by Philip Roth
StarringAl Pacino
Greta Gerwig
Dianne Wiest
Charles Grodin
Kyra Sedgwick
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
CinematographyAdam Jandrup
Edited byAaron Yanes
Ambi Pictures
Hammerton Productions
Distributed byMillennium Films
Release date
  • August 30, 2014 (2014-08-30) (VIFF)
  • January 23, 2015 (2015-01-23) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million

It was screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival[1] and in the Out of Competition section of the 71st Venice International Film Festival. The film was released on January 23, 2015, by Millennium Films.


Simon Axler is an aging actor who suffers from bouts of dementia. He is institutionalized after an incident during a Broadway play, then returns home, where he contemplates suicide in Hemingway style. When he embarks upon an affair with an ex-girlfriend's amoral bisexual daughter, his world starts to fall apart. It ends on stage, with even Axler's audience and fellow actors unsure what's real and what's not.



After reading and connecting with the book, Pacino decided to option the book and asked Barry Levinson to direct it. [2] Levinson decided to make the movie as a dark comedy, noting, "If you want to talk about an older actor in decline, just to do it as some straight drama didn’t seem that intriguing to me" also citing that comedy "seemed to me inherent in the piece".[3] Although both Pacino and Levinson have denied that the character of Simon is autobiographical to Pacino's life,[3] Pacino noted that he related to the material, stating that "it’s in, as they say, my wheelhouse."[2]

Although the film in the beginning had ample funding, the listed conditions got too much for Levinson, who rejected them and lost by his estimate "somewhere in the area of $6 million."[3] Subsequently it was decided to shoot the film incrementally with several breaks built in to accommodate Pacino's schedule. This was a new experience for Levinson although he welcomed the change of pace as "It added to the clarity."[3]

On February 4, 2014, it was announced that Millennium Films had acquired the worldwide rights to the film.[4]


The Humbling received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 51%, based on 59 reviews, with a rating of 5.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Humbling is an inarguable highlight of Al Pacino's late-period filmography, but that's an admittedly low bar that it doesn't always clear by a very wide margin."[5] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]


  1. "Toronto Film Festival Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  2. Hammond, Pete. "Al Pacino In-Depth: On 'The Humbling', Old Vs. New Hollywood And 'Scarface'". Deadline. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  3. Guerrasio, Jason. "Barry Levinson on making little movies in a big age". The Dissolve. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  4. McNary, Dave (4 February 2014). "Al Pacino's 'The Humbling' Gets Distribution". Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  5. "The Humbling". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  6. "The Humbling Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-04-24.
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