Well that is precisely the reaction I had to watching this sweet, tender film. Eschewing the scatology that passes as wit in Hollywood these days, HUMBLE PIE displays tremendous wit, compassion and understanding about people. It also establishes the enormous presence of hugely-talented young writer/star Hubbel Palmer, who stars as Tracy Orbison, a gentle grocery clerk who dreams of achieving a higher purpose in life.
Multiple failed driver's tests serve as a metaphor for the challenges Tracy faces in his life. He has a strange home life with his eccentric mother and mousy sister (her hobby is collecting stuffed animals—sort of a Laura character from THE GLASS MENAGERIE, except her frailty is emotional, not physical). His well-meaning boss at the grocery store (the always reliable Bruce McGill) is helpful, but only up to a point. Tracy's friends sometimes let him down. His best efforts sometimes blow up in his face. Through it all, however, Tracy maintains a sunny disposition and a determination that is positively inspiring.
Thus the film follows Tracy's adventures as he struggles to achieve his goals. His foray into drama is made positively hilarious by the inspired casting of William Baldwin as his egotistical acting teacher. I'm not a Billy Baldwin fan by any stretch of the imagination, so it was positively delightful to be won over by his spot on performance as an actor whose ego far exceeds his talent. Baldwin has the best line of the film after watching Tracy play a bit part on television.
If the film has a weakness, in my opinion, it is that the story didn't quite resolve as fully as I would've liked. When Tracy shares his poetry with a colleague from the grocery store, her reaction is not what I thought (and hoped) it would be. Of course, maybe that's the whole point: life is like that, but Tracy is so gol-darned lovable that I wanted a better payoff for him.
Another reason to see this film is to enjoy Kathleen Quinlan's outstanding performance as Tracy's mother. Quinlan was pretty high profile in the seventies before fading into semi-obscurity. Like so many actresses, it seems she was brushed aside when she became a certain age. This dismissive attitude towards women in particular and talent in general, is one of Hollywood's biggest ongoing sins. Quinlan is terrific. True, she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in APOLLO 13 in 1994, but this lady should be much better known than she is.
HUMBLE PIE has its heart in the right place. You will love these characters. Hubbel Palmer is the quintessential underdog. You'll be rooting for him from the first scene.