So last night I was finally able to watch HBO’s new film “Paterno” which was released Saturday. When this film was announced I was extremely interested in it since I grew up a huge fan of Penn State Football, along with most of my family, so this story hit close to home.
Right off the bat, this movie provides nothing new. It will not change your opinion on Paterno either way.We didn’t see anything new from Joe that we hadn’t already seen in other documentaries and the media. However the movie really makes JoePa seem as if he does not care about the situation going on around him at all. He would constantly brush off conversations about it throughout the movie to watch film on his next opponent. The movie also shows just how ignorant the Penn State fans were during this. There is a scene where one of Paterno’s sons comes out to address the large crowd outside of Joe’s house. He starts off by thanking them for the support and they continue to chant “Joe Paterno!” and “We want Joe!” Then he tries to offer sympathy and prayers for the victims. And I say he tried because every time he made an attempt to do so he was shut down by the crowd’s chants. Later it shows the students rioting and crying after JoePa got fired and refusing to acknowledge the victims and the scandal as a whole.
The film pretty much goes back and forth between Paterno and Sara Ganim, even though she took a backseat to Joe and her story was not explored enough. Ganim was the reporter who broke the story of Sandusky’s sexual abuse in March 2011. I give the movie credit for trying to explore Paterno’s fall from grace and Ganim’s struggle to be noticed, but there isn’t enough room for both in this film.
The film opens up with JoePa getting a CT scan and then the rest is flashbacks. First it goes to Penn State vs Illinois, the game Paterno earned his record 409th win. It shows Tim Curley (Athletic Director), Gary Schultz (Vice President of PSU) and Graham Spainer (President of PSU) discussing the upcoming indictment of Jerry Sandusky. After that it goes into Joe’s everyday life as the scandal is going on. We see the Grand Jury’s presentment being released, the reaction from Joe’s family and him being unconcerned. This film does not vilify JoePa but it does not make him look good. In some of the scenes you can tell he didn’t understand his role in the scandal. And he did things like not reading the presentment because his job as coach was to get ready for next game.
Ganim’s story showed how after the Grand Jury’s presentment was released, he article blew up and big news corporations started to reference her and the article, some even interviewing her. It wasn’t all good for her however, her credibility was questioned and she was even threatened. It shows her interviewing the first victim that came forward about Sandusky’s sexual abuse, Aaron Fisher. The parts with Aaron were clearly filler content and there so the film can show they haven’t forgotten about the victims, as they don’t dive into that really at all.
My verdict on this film is that it is a good film, but do not go into this expecting to learn a whole lot (considering you already have a basic knowledge of the scandal) or have your opinion on the topic changed. The biggest problem besides that is they try to push Sara Ganim’s story in this movie but they (obviously) dedicate more time to JoePa so there just isn’t enough of Ganim to make her a protagonist, and since they do this we lose time with Paterno. Like I said earlier, there just isn’t enough room in this film for both storylines. Al Pacino’s performance was extremely well and by far the best thing about the movie. If you’re interested in this story or have little knowledge about it, I would recommend watching it.
(Photo: HBO “Paterno”)