Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reel Facts & Opinions: Why a Joe Paterno Movie is a Bad Idea

FACT: Plans are in the works to adapt Joe Posnanski’s best-selling autobiographical novel, Paterno, into either a feature film or a television project. Al Pacino is interested in playing Joe Paterno. No screenplay has been written yet and no director is currently attached.

Joe Paterno coached the Penn State University football team for 45 years before being dismissed for his involvement in a child-abuse sex-scandal in 2011. Paterno died in 2012.

OPINON: The Joe Paterno story has been, and continues to be a source of heated debates and controversy. Having not read the novel, there can only be speculation as to what angle a feature film would take to tell the man’s story. On the surface, it seems there are only three ways to go; none of which feel like a good idea.

 1. The movie glorifies Joe Paterno. Long-time loyal fans of the coach and face of Penn St. University would be thrilled to see him made a hero on the big screen in a RUDY or HOOSIERS fashion. While this approach could work very well on film, it is difficult to believe that a complete story on the man’s entire life would either gloss over or omit the troubles he faced in his later days. Such an omission would certainly anger opponents of the late coach, not to mention families of the victims who still hold him responsible. If this film is to tell his entire life story, then everything needs to get in there; after all, you can’t make a Richard Nixon movie without mentioning Watergate.

 2. The movie destroys Joe Paterno. Those who hold Paterno responsible for everything that happened on-and-off campus would love to see him portrayed in a negative light, but it would literally be beating a dead horse. Considering how powerful a medium the movies can be, the Paterno family and the reputation of the University could have permanent damage. No good can come out of such an approach.

3.  The movie is neutral. In 2008, Oliver Stone directed W., a biopic which followed President George W. Bush’s rise to power and Presidency. The film didn’t take any sides and was very a neutral and evenly-keeled presentation. The result was dead-nuts boring. With no conflict or obstacles to overcome, the centerpiece of the story is given little to do or act upon. An approach like that in a Joe Paterno film may keep both sides relatively quiet, but as a film it may fall flat on its face.

So if a Joe Paterno movie can’t be made for the Right, the Left, or the Middle, then what to do? This Blogger suggests this: Do nothing. Let the book, which is an authorized biography, stand on its own; let everyone read it and make their own judgments. Let the University heal, let the obsessed fans obsess; let all the families move forward. If a movie has to be made, then wait a while; maybe let ten years pass for the wreckage to cool and the smoke to clear. Unfortunately, Hollywood hasn’t shown a lot of patience in recent years in capitalizing on what people are talking about now. Hopefully, they won’t be able to find anyone willing to play the role of the now-jailed villain and the whole thing will quietly slip into history.

What say you?


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