Thursday, April 22, 2010

'You Don't Know Jack' review: Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review Al Pacino in "You Don't Know Jack" on HBO, and discuss the ongoing struggle between Pacino the actor and Pacino the ham.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I get redirected to the (new?) mobile page and can't find you from there. I hope the mobile site's a work in progress.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dunno. Link obviously works fine on a computer. This is the first I've heard of NJ.com coming up with a mobile version. Will try to look into it.

Anonymous said...

The link works fine for me. I'm on Windows XP and Firefox 3.6.3, for what it's worth.

LDP said...

Using an iPhone here, and the link didn't work.

medrawt said...

YES, Pacino in Donnie Brasco. The scene at the end as he prepares to leave his home is heartbreaking, and such a startling reminder of his unused powers.

Of course, there is something to be said for the way he delivers lines like "Because she's got a GREEEAT ASS." I mean, really, what else are you gonna do with something like that?

Tom said...

Yeah, whenever I watch Godfather I & II I feel like there's a completely different actor there than that of post-Scent of a Woman Pacino. I have cognitive difficulties connecting the Michael Corleone of those films with the Michael Corleone of Godfather III because Pacino had gone in a totally different direction by that point. Deniro, I think, has a similar, if not quite as pronounced, problem. His late work is more caricature than performance, a mere echo of his awesome, early films.

Chuck Nottheshow said...

@medrawt--beat me to it. "Random shouting as the cop in Heat"? No such thing. I use "Because she's got a great a-uss, an' yor he-ud is alltheway up init" probably weekly. But Pacino the ham is a fair point, Alan--your buddy Bill Simmons would point out he's played the same character since Scent of a Woman, if not before.

renton said...

Thanks for writing what I've been saying about Pacino for years. And Medrawt - that's exactly the line from Heat I joke about, too.

How Donnie Brasco got bumped to a February release and missed the Oscar rush will always be a mystery to me.

Forrest Gump needs another R, though.

Karen said...

AMEN to this, Alan! I've been saying the same thing about Pacino since Scent of a Woman, which I watched throughout with the Dropped-jaw of Horrified Disbelief. Man, do I hate that movie.

Had the same reaction to his Roy Cohn--"Oh, right, I remember THAT Pacino!" It would have been a sin to have chewed that scenery.

But generally the guy has set fragments hanging in shreds from his bicuspids, to the point that I can barely watch him anymore.

The one time I thought his hamminess worked to his advantage in the post SoaW days was in Devil's Advocate, where I found it kinda delicious.

The Bgt said...

Can I add another exception? "Insomnia". Absolutely loved him in this film.

Art Fleming said...

what a weird picture

Bobman said...

I sheepishly admit that I liked "Scent of a Woman." Accepting the hamminess of Pacino's acting (and the annoyingly timid acting of Chris O'Donnell) it's still a good flick.

That said... the schtick grew old about halfway through that movie, let alone the 20 years that have followed it.

Linda said...

In reference to Alan's comment about the accent Pacino uses as Kevorkian, did anyone see Pacino on the CBS Sunday Morning show this week? I watched the interview wondering why Pacino was talking like he was in the movie "Fargo". Now I realize it must have been the accent he used as Kevorkian, but I have no idea why he was still talking that way.

JMC said...

I dunno about all this ire at the bellicose-Pacino. I think there's selective memory going on here. Look at his IMDB credits in between Dog Day and Scent:

# Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
# Frankie and Johnny (1991)
# The Godfather: Part III (1990)
# Dick Tracy (1990)
# The Local Stigmatic (1990)
# Sea of Love (1989)
# Revolution (1985)
# Scarface (1983)
# Author! Author! (1982)
# Cruising (1980)
# ...And Justice for All. (1979)

Some of those films are forgettable but to the point "Scent" isn't the first time he starts acting from his esophagus. He did it in "Godfather" with his "Never ask me about my business!" In "Justice for All" has the "You're outta order, I'm outta order, the whole court is outta order!"

Man I love that guy. :)

Always Boris said...

I can't believe no one has talked about "Ocean's 13" yet! Crappy for so many reasons, but most of all for Pacino-the-Ham.

Chris M said...

Someone above mentioned DeNiro, but I think there's a subtle, yet important, difference between him and Pacino. DeNiro has become a caricature of himself in recent years, but I really think he's done that intentionally - he's been in a bunch of comedy movies playing on his reputation as the "tough guy." He really hasn't been in too many "Oscar bait" type movies lately, or anything else that was supposed to be groundbreaking. Even the "serious" movies he does are like the one he recently did with Pacino, which I think he was clearly doing for the paycheck or for the "buzz" of being in a movie with Pacino again.

Pacino, on the other hand, I really think every time he gets on set he thinks "this is it, this is the role that gets me my second Oscar." The irony is that his overacting has made him insufferable, and if he just toned it down (or stopped taking himself so seriously), he'd probably get a lot more praise. 10 years ago, he was at the top of everybody's "best living actor" list. Now, I don't know that he's even in the top 10.

To make a basketball comparison: DeNiro is the aging vet who wants to keep playing but knows the skills aren't what they were. He accepts a reduced role, plays a few minutes a game, and every so often he reaches deep down and pulls out a great game. Pacino is the aging vet who can't accept that he doesn't still have the skills, and goes out there every night shooting as much as he did in his prime, but at a much worse percentage.

amyp3 said...

As a lifelong resident of the Mitten State I'd describe our accent this way: The characters done by two Michiganders, Gilda Radner's Lisa Loopner and Lily Tomlin's little girl (Edith Ann?), were just extreme exaggerations of MI accents. We can be kind of nasal.

BTW Kevorkian lived in my town. I've seen him around. Made me kinda nervous.

But unfortunately, this is yet another of the many films made around here recently that I didn't have a chance to work on. But I heard Al was nice to the extras.

Josh said...

A ham through and through...

Merrylegs said...

What about "The Insider"? Loved that movie and I thought Pacino was good and had an appropriate performance throughout the film. Still my favorite Russell Crowe performance too.

Anonymous said...

Chris M - are you talking about Shaq and Kobe?

Tony M said...

Alan, take another look at Heat. Every scene where Pacino shouts or goes over the top, he is talking to an informer or a suspect. Usually, the other cops in thje scene are smirking. They know that it is an act meant to destablize whoever he is talking too. (For example, the scene where he talks to the snicth at the chop shop.) It is overacting - by deliberate choice of the CHARACTER he is playing.

By contrast, his scenes with the other detectives, his wife and, most especially, his step daughter, he is still intense, but more subduded. (This gives his scene with DeNiro more power - he treats him like an equal.) I believe that his nonsense in Scent tars his character's behavior here.

Further, I'd argue that since then, Pacion has turned in a number of good performances (Insider, Brasco, Insomnia) that has DeNiro, who has become a joke.

Tony Dayoub said...

I think the director is more often to blame for a hammy actor's performance than the actor himself. Sidney Lumet once acknowledged in an interview that he'd rather have a Rod Steiger who he has to suppress than some stiff underplaying the part from who he has to pull out a performance.

In this case, if you look at Pacino's career trajectory, his strongest performances are a measure of which director he's working with. And in some cases, like SCARFACE, the level of teatricality is deliberate; the film is nothing if not operatic even outside of his histrionics. Note how that film's director, Brian De Palma, managed to pull quite a different performance out of Pacino in the underrated CARLITO'S WAY.

Barry Levinson plays it down the middle with Pacino, allowing him to show substantial dynamic range in his portrayal of Kevorkian, which reflects the tone of the film. YOU DON'T KNOW JACK is both a grim docudrama and an absurd satire reflective of these times and our Tea Party-obsessed media. It gets a bit gonzo when Pacino is goes to court in a pillory wearing the white wig of a Revolutionary-era American to protest civil rights. But the film also has its profoundly stirring quiet moments, such as Pacino's excellent confessional scene with Susan Sarandon in the third act.

I think you were too harsh on this one, Alan.

Trilby said...

"It’s such an attention-seeking, tic-ridden performance that it becomes difficult to pay attention to the actual story of Kevorkian and his campaign to legalize euthanasia."

alan, I couldn't disagree more. I felt like Pacino disappeared into this role. I felt like I was watching the real Kevorkian. It was an amazing performance.