Paterno (2018)

paterno poster 2018 movie al pacino
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great make-up, Pacino is solid

So-so storytelling

Movie Info

Movie Name: Paterno

Studio: Movie Studio

Genre(s): Movie Genre

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: Movie Rating

paterno cast family al pacino

Dad…what did you know?

When Jerry Sandusky (Jim Johnson) is charged with sex crimes against young boys, all eyes focus on the Penn State football program where Sandusky worked for years as an assistant coach under Joe Paterno (Al Pacino).  As first reported by The Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim (Riley Keough), the reports implicate Penn State officials and the legendary coach.  Joe Paterno finds himself in a fight for career and his life…what did he know and when did he know it?

Directed by Barry Levinson, Paterno is a drama film about the Penn State sex scandal and the legendary coach Joe Paterno (December 21, 1926-January 22, 2012).  The film premiered on HBO on April 7, 2018 and received mostly positive reviews.  The film received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special.

As the Joe Paterno story rolled out, it felt like there were day after day of new allegations, reports, and events surrounding Penn State.  It was a rollercoaster just reading about the reports and I can’t imagine living it or living in University Park, Pennsylvania in which the university is more than just a school but a way of life.  Paterno tries to craft a story for the timeline of events and speculates on what people knew when through files and reports.

paterno jerry sandusky jim johnson

Yeah, I’m in a major movie with Al Pacino!!!
Crap…I’m in it because I look like Jerry Sandusky

The biggest problem with Paterno is that it focuses on Joe Paterno.  The fact that Paterno is dead and died shortly after the events occurred leaves a blur of reality surrounding what he really knew.  A moment at the end reports that he had heard stories all the way back in 1976 while he only claimed to have heard in 2001…there is no middle ground.  He either knew or he didn’t, and I tend to believe he did know but “didn’t want to be bothered by it”.  It is an un-talked about subject that in some ways is personal because it is about sex and privacy, but shouldn’t be…the kids didn’t have a choice.  The movie doesn’t idolize Paterno, but I also feel it doesn’t go far enough to potentially vilify him.  If he knew in 1976 that isn’t just a blurb at the end of the movie.  He allowed so many more kids to be hurt…that’s criminal.  The idea that Paterno “didn’t know what was being talked about” is no excuse because an educated guy like him knows that child molestation and rape wasn’t a new idea or concept.

Pacino is a good Paterno.  He has that Pacino mumble, but he can also be boisterous like many a football coach.  Since the movie takes place during Paterno’s downfall, it is a shame that there wasn’t more opportunity for a “younger” Paterno to allow Pacino to portray him a little closer to his prime.  The casting is relatively solid with the supporting cast resembling much of real players.  I realize that the Sara Ganim role is important to the story (she broke it), but I felt that when Riley Keough’s character would show up that nothing really important happened…it felt like the movie needed more focus in that sense.

paterno al pacino statue

The fall of a guy who was probably more criminal than the movie portrayed because he couldn’t be bothered

Visually the movie not only matches the actors with roles, but the make-up really nails it.  I don’t think Pacino in general looks much like Paterno, but he did here.  The flashbacks and “light scenes” are a bit over-the-top and felt like they too could have been streamlined into the script better.

Paterno tells an interesting story and I think some of the strongest moments are the moments that aren’t based on “fact” because of the actors involves.  Scenes where the Paterno family is sitting around talking about “what did you know Joe” and honest talk were the real thinking portions of the show…it might not have been 100% factual, but it was interesting. The divide between what was fact and what was fiction is what Paterno never quite makes it over.  Is it a drama or is it a telling of what happened?  They try to have it both ways and neither side feels fully formed.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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