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.”


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 or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
D. Michael Evola opened E-String to make New York style pizza
Shamrock Macarons at Morels at Palazzo
Zuma serves a sushi roll topped with 24-karat gold
La Cirque covers their quail and foie gras in real gold
Jean-Georges Steakhouse seves chocolate gold bars
3 ways you can eat gold in Las Vegas
Artist Kathleen Nathan On The Virtues Of Library Galleries
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries offers artists a more relaxed vibe for showing their work. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada SPCA Competes In Tournament Of Tails
The NSPCA and its mascot cat, Prince, are competing in an online voting challenge for a $5,000 grand prize.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Eureka's cocktail comes with a "buzz button" that will shock your taste buds
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed Deadline reports that New Line has purchased Chase and Lawrence Konner’s screenplay for their “Sopranos” prequel film. The working title for the prequel is “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase created the HBO series, which ran for six seasons, and Konner served as a writer. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set during the 1960s riots in the New Jersey city between the African-American and Italian communities. Multiple characters from the series, albeit younger versions, are expected to star in the film. The Sopranos won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards during its run.
The Big Bounce America is coming to the Las Vegas Valley
The Big Bounce America. (Courtesy Big Bounce America)
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History According to The Hollywood Reporter, 26.5 million watched the Oscars, a 20 percent drop from last year. The 26.5 million viewers would be an all-time low for the Oscars. Overnight returns had the lengthy ABC telecast averaging a 18.9 rating among households between 8 and 11 p.m. ET. Last year, 32.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the ceremony. The previous low for viewership was 32 million viewers in 2008 when Jon Stewart was host. The Shape of Water picked up an award for Best Picture, while Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand won Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
March First Friday theme is “Think”
First Friday art, culture, music and food event takes place on the first Friday of every month in and around the studios and galleries of the Arts District in downtown Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon)
Cirque’s One Night for One Drop gets ready for the big night
Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” performed a dress rehearsal for the annual benefit show. This year’s show at Mandalay Bay is based on the life of singer-songwriter Jewel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like