Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in "Phil Spector"
Helen Mirren and Al Pacino in "Phil Spector"

HBO's "Phil Spector" (March 24) directed by David Mamet and starring a tantalizingly wigged-out Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, is mostly receiving praise from critics. Pacino's performance is being touted as "compelling, both despite and because of the wigs," while Mamet's direction is called "sinfully entertaining." But not every outlet is impressed: Variety describes the film as "essentially a Lifetime movie gussied up with an Oscar pedigree." Review highlights below.

The film, which chronicles what might have happened on the night of actress Lana Clarkson's murder, insists via an opening title card: "This is a work of fiction. It is not 'based on a true story.'" Mamet told TheWrap

"I think that someone in the legal hierarchy at HBO wanted some sort of disclaimer, and I kind of thought that was a good idea… Every time I see the phrase ‘based on a true story,’ as an audience member I kind of blanch. I don’t care if it’s based on a true story, I care if it is a true story.”

The Hollywood Reporter

How do you even get past the spectacle of Al Pacino wearing an assortment of Spector’s famous adornments and believe him as the famous record producer charged with killing an actress at his mansion? As it turns out, during the course of an intriguing and intimate 90 minutes, Pacino is compelling both despite of and because of the wigs. So, mission accomplished.


“Al Pacino is Phil Spector” is a tough marketing pitch to resist, but the teaming of the much-honored Pacino, Helen Mirren and writer-director David Mamet can barely obscure that this crime-based story is essentially a Lifetime movie gussied up with an Oscar pedigree and F-bombs.

New York Daily News:

In the end, the movie transcends the legal chess match, defining itself instead by the sheer wattage of Spector’s personality and his high-level sparring with a woman whose brains match his own, minus the madness.

It would be hard to overplay Spector, and Pacino doesn’t try. He and Mamet also don’t spend a lot of time implicitly or explicitly trying to figure what makes him tick.


David Mamet’s sinfully entertaining Phil Spector -- a new HBO movie, premiering Sunday, set during the legendary record producer’s first trial for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson -- plays a saucy variation on the claims of a fact-based biopic. 

New York Post:

Fictionalized or not, “Phil Spector” the movie is a helluva tale -- told by a master dramatist and starring HBO’s very own go-to actor for oddball characters, Al Pacino. Pacino pulls off such a masterful performance, you will think he’s really Spector’s specter -- not some fool in clown wigs. What you may find disappointing, however, is that this is not the story of the genius who changed popular music, nor the story of Spector’s abusive relationships with his wives and his long history of threatening them with guns.