We all feel low from time to time. After all, you can’t ride that A-Train of happiness forever. Sometimes you wake up and think, “Where did all my self-confidence go? Why do all my friends give me weird looks when I talk? Where did I get such bad taste in music? Man, I suck.”
What do you do when you’re too down to get out of bed? Take Prozac? Recite affirmations? Read a how-to book?
I recommend an Al Pacino film.
Pacino is a self-esteem cure-all. Cancel next week’s therapy sessions. Toss Maxim and Men’s Health in the dumpster. Instead, swing by Blockbuster and stock up on a few Francis Ford Coppola flicks, because there’s a Pacino monologue out there to guide you through any situation.
The man has played basically the same character since the 1980s. He’s plagued by grotesque cheekbones and a habit of constantly licking his lips. His voice is phlegmy and his speech guttural. His face is like a cragged wasteland, broken up into savage rifts and trenches. But few actors in cinema pack more gumption, more power and more noise than the man who turned “Hu-ha!” into a quotable exclamation.
Suppose you were a nerdy, anti-social high school kid (like me at age 14). You have no close friends; the bullies like to flick your earlobes. The remedy? Just rent a copy of Carlito’s Way, and take notes (synopsis: Pacino is released from jail, finds his old drug dealer buddies, runs a club and wears really, really nice leather jackets, in summer).
No organizational skills? Do people take advantage of you? The Godfather: Part II shows a Pacino who can manage to run on a tight schedule. He ably demonstrates when to keep your cool—twenty-four hours a day, even in the face of blackmail—and when it’s healthy to get upset (like when your own family tries to gun you down in your bedroom).
Are you lost in the system? Is bureaucracy making you feel confused and alienated? By the third hour of The Insider, a pushy, red tape-slashing Pacino will make people think twice before cutting in front of you at the ATM.
Feeling uncultured? Looking for Richard is an excellent documentary on Shakespeare, in which Pacino gets to argue with famous actors, dress up like a hunchback psycho, and play the first Richard III with an East Harlem accent.
Maybe you’re feeling spiritually empty. You’ve lost your oneness with the universe, any trace of your moral foundations. Well, Pacino can’t help you there, but he plays one damn good Lucifer in The Devil’s Advocate.
And if all this stomping and yelling is making you feel too serious, Dick Tracy offers a goofy, colorful Pacino who sings Sondheim (well, tries to, anyway).
Why is Pacino such a motivator? I think it’s the intensity. After all, the point of watching Heat isn’t to see heavy-duty marital relationships unfold; it’s to see Pacino push around thugs in their own crib, or rip a television out of the living room wall.
The same goes for Any Given Sunday. Unlike any given sports movie, it’s Pacino who stands on the sidelines, hollering at the top of his lungs. Put Emilio Estevez in the same role and it’s not the same.
But unlike other tough guys (such as Clint Eastwood), Pacino plays savvy personalities. He dances through Scent of a Woman, vision or no vision, and bargains his way through a hopeless situation in Dog Day Afternoon. His leads are always dominating conversation, his rants are always flawless. No two-bit antagonist has messed with a Pacino character for decades, because he’s always gutsy enough to pull through.
Timing is essential for a Pacino copycat. For example, it’s best to blow up int he middle of a sentence, and punch the last word (e.g. “In my HOME!” Or: “Now you’re gonna DIE, BIGTIME!”).
You’ll never see a Pacino wearing jeans and a T-shirt. No matter who he’s playing—cop, mobster, television producer—he’s invariably sporting some expensive three-piece suit. So if you can’t muster the raw energy, you can at least take fashion tips.
And remember, just like every social situation, it’s all an act. Turn off the camera and Pacino could be anybody. So don’t feel bad if Pacino lessons don’t work for you. There’s always Jack Nicholson.