In HBO’s ‘Paterno,’ Pacino plays out-of-touch coach

I like college football as much as the next guy — provided that the next guy wasn’t a Penn State fan in 2011.

As presented in “Paterno” (8 p.m. Saturday, HBO), Happy Valley, the nickname for the area surrounding the university, comes off like an oxymoron as students and townsfolk react with increasing levels of rage to developments in the sexual abuse scandal engulfing the football team.

With coach Joe Paterno (Al Pacino) and his family sequestered in their home, their front lawn is besieged by dozens of students and members of the media. Son Scott (Greg Grunberg), an attorney, goes out to address them and implore them also to think about the young boys former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky ultimately would be convicted of raping.

Each time Scott tries to mention the children, he’s shouted down by chants of “Joe Pa-ter-no!”

When Paterno is eventually fired for his involvement — or lack thereof — in the scandal, city streets become a mob scene. Police turn out in riot gear. Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), who first reported the Sandusky allegations for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, talks to a young woman caught up in the bedlam who thinks Paterno should be in jail. “Can I maybe quote you on that?” she asks. “No! I don’t wanna get (expletive) killed in my bed!” Eventually the masses begin chanting “(Expletive) the media!”

Out of touch

With director Barry Levinson and Pacino teaming for an HBO movie, no one could have expected a hagiography. After all, Levinson’s HBO track record includes directing Pacino as Jack Kevorkian in 2010’s “You Don’t Know Jack”; executive producing Pacino’s turn as the music mogul turned murderer in 2013’s “Phil Spector”; and directing Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff in 2017’s “The Wizard of Lies.”

That’s some mighty fine company.

“Paterno,” though, doesn’t portray its subject as the heavy — more like heavily out of touch.

Focusing almost exclusively on the final two weeks of his legendary coaching career, the movie chronicles Paterno’s record-setting 409th victory then the initial indictment against his longtime assistant just six days later.

Paterno refuses to so much as glance at the list of Sandusky charges.

“They indictin’ me?” he asks Scott. Told that they aren’t, he responds with a dismissive, “So?”

“I got Nebraska a week from today,” Paterno adds. “They’re 7-1. Just so you know.”

Oy.

Another son, Penn State assistant coach Jay (Larry Mitchell), won’t read it either. “Yeah. What’s the hurry?” Scott sarcastically asks. “Guy only (expletived) eight children.”

Joe’s wife, Sue (Kathy Baker), eventually takes in count after nauseating count before heading straight to the bathroom to vomit.

Humanizing the victims

Aaron Fisher (Benjamin Cook) similarly wants nothing to do with the list of charges. That’s because he’s the young man referred to as “Victim 1.”

“I don’t want you to read it,” Aaron begs his mother. “Everything’s on there.”

“It’s on the computer, Aaron,” she responds. “Your mother can’t be the only person in the country not to read it.”

Through Aaron, and Ganim’s “Spotlight”-style reporting, “Paterno” finally puts a human face on the Sandusky atrocities.

Aaron is shown crying when a social worker calls to tell him the charges are about to become public.

He can no longer sleep in a bed after the abuse he suffered at the hands of the serial predator. Instead, each night, Aaron curls up on a small couch where he can ensure he’ll be alone.

Confusion and remorse

Paterno, whom Pacino plays as sort of a withered Ray Romano, isn’t the villain of the piece. That’s clearly Sandusky, who rarely appears onscreen.

But the fact that the coach once lovingly known as JoePa allowed Sandusky, who retired in 1999, to remain close to his program with access to the team facilities where much of the sexual abuse took place, when Paterno knew about the allegations at least as far back as 1998, is unconscionable.

His final days on campus amounted to one of the saddest ends to any career in sports.

Pacino portrays Paterno, whose mantra has become, “It’s got nothing to do with me,” as a man filled with nearly as much confusion as remorse.

After dictating a statement expressing his sympathies to the victims, Paterno declares, “Release that. That’s the end of it. I have practice.”

Thankfully it wasn’t the end of it.

Not even close.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like