By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Based on the novel by Philip Roth, Barry Levinson directs this often hilarious adapted screenplay by Hollywood legend Buck Henry.  The film served as the opening night film of the 2014 Austin Film Festival and kick off the event with an entertaining and poignant movie that would pair nicely with the recent release Birdman.  Al Pacino stars as acclaimed stage actor Simon Axler.  After suffering a breakdown during one of his recent stage productions, Axler finds himself in a state of depression and anxiety.  As he undergoes therapy, first in a facility and then at home, Simon desperately wishes to rediscover his passion for his craft and life in general.  His life gets reinvigorated when he falls for Pegeen (Greta Gerwig), a much younger lesbian woman.  As he becomes more involved with Pegeen, her personal problems begin to invade his life and offer him the type of drama he doesn’t want.

The film was a great opening night film for AFF, which is known as “The Writers Festival”.  The screenplay by Henry makes for touching and hilarious movie full of rich characters and bizarre and awkward scenarios.  The cast, particularly Pacino and Gerwig deliver superb performances.  The movie also features solid work by Kyra Sedgwick, Diane Wiest, Charles Grodin, Dan Hedaya, and Dylan Baker.  The delightful and hilarious Nina Arianda steals some scenes from Pacino as Sybil, a delusional lady who “befriends” Simon at the facility where he gets admitted.  As of now, the film is slated for a January, 2015 release date and I must recommend that people seek it out once it opens.


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