HBO has released the first full trailer for Paterno, the upcoming drama following the controversy surrounding Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Starring Al Pacino (under a lot of makeup), Riley Keough, Greg Grunberg, Kathy Baker, and Annie Parisse, the film is directed by Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson and looks to peer into the internal chaos at the university in the aftermath of the abuse scandal. In particular, the film examines just how much Paterno knew about the allegations against Sandusky before news of the scandal broke.
The trailer offers up what looks to be a fascinating drama, one that splits its time between Paterno facing some very tough questions and those who have been tasked with asking them. Leading that charge is Riley Keough as Sara Ganim, who at the time was a reporter for The Patriot-News in Pennsylvania. The film shifts back and forth between Ganim’s investigation into the scandal and the pressure the coach was subsequently put under to resign from his position at the university.
The investigative journalism portion of the film feels of a piece with recent films like The Post and especially Spotlight, demonstrating the need for journalists to ask tough questions to and of those in positions of power. And as the trailer demonstrates, those questions often result in a backlash from those unwilling to hear or accept the the answers. As such, it appears as though Levinson may have a powerful drama on his hands that’s more journalism movie than straight-up biopic.
However the film ultimately ends up being received, it looks to have a strong performance from Pacino, who delivers a more low-key performance than audiences are used to seeing from him of late. Perhaps the strongest indication is Pacino’s reaction to questions posed by Baker regarding Paterno's knowledge of Sandusky and how close he’d been allowed to get to the couple’s children. That’s countered by a more fiery response to the suggestion Paterno resign in lieu of being fired, when he says, “I raised millions of dollars for this university. I have a staff and a squad that can win a national championship. You wanna fire me? Try it.”
In all, Paterno looks to be a strong effort from HBO Films that may well give the premium channel some awards buzz come Emmy season. Emmy contender or not, the film will likely have plenty of interest surrounding it, considering the events it covers are still relatively fresh in the public's mind.
Paterno premieres Saturday, April 7 on HBO.