Manglehorn (Al Pacino) is a keymaker who lives by himself with his cat for his best-friend. He lives a life of solitude, but that isn’t the worst thing in the world in his mind. Every Friday he goes to the bank where he sees Dawn (Holly Hunter), a lovely woman with whom he sometimes flirts with. He also has some contact with his son, Jacob (Chris Messina), and often runs into his old and odd little league player Gary (Harmony Korine). Though he has people in his life, Mr. Manglehorn can’t let go of the woman he lost.
Manglehorn is the latest film out of Austin from director David Gordon Green and it’s unfortunately not as good as the two previous films that he shot here. The film is full of breathtaking shots and wonderful music, but none of the characters ever make a lasting connection with the audience, and more importantly themselves. There is a lot of wandering throughout the film and many questionable sequences which seem wildly out-of-place for the type of film this is. Then there’s the other code that needs to be cracked; what kind of film is this?
Al Pacino is always viewed as a very loud, very eccentric man who yells and waves his arms around. He’s also viewed as one of the greatest actors of all time. As Manglehorn, we see a side to Pacino that we truly have never seen before; one where he’s constantly hurting and quiet. He shuffles about the film, practically muttering to himself and leaves the most audible dialogue for when he’s describing the long-lost love of his life. Pacino is very effective in this subdued role and his pain almost hurts the audience, until he gets his few Al Pacino moments to freak out and yell.
David Gordon Green’s film collection always perplexes me, but I’m always on board for what he has to show because he’s consistently changing his interests. I wouldn’t have guessed that he’d want to tell the story of an older man who’s all alone, but somehow he makes it work for part of the film. His direction is very calm and focused, offering up some truly gorgeous takes of the actors and their surroundings. Much like his other films, he also has his central character in an “unconventional” movie job and the keymaker works pretty well. He can help everyone unlock what they need to get on with their lives, but he can’t help himself.
Holly Hunter, whom the world hasn’t seen in far too long, really does the most out of anyone in this film with the time she’s allotted. It’s rather unfortunate that she’s used as a mirror for Al Pacino to self-reflect in, because she does bring the most emotion to the film. Chris Messina is fine, but his character is another large trope that goes against Pacino to cause some family tension in the film. His story never felt authentic and it always came off like it was forced.
For a relatively short film, it did seem like hours that I was watching this slow, mostly uninteresting film unfold. There’s a lot of narration by Al Pacino as we she shots from the past and we read Pacino’s love letters on-screen. Those scenes seemed odd enough and the film really did not need Harmony Korine involved at all. He plays a character like someone out of Spring Breakers and there’s a whole big part in the middle where he’s running a tanning salon and offering happy-ending massages… I can’t make this stuff up and truly wish it were not a part
of the film.
Manglehorn is probably the film of David Gordon Green’s that I’ve been most disinterested in and it’s one that I don’t really need to revisit. Al Pacino and Holly Hunter are great, but they’re not working with the best material and the film loses track of itself after only a half-an-hour. If you’re enthused by an older man recounting his lost lover’s tale and want to watch him be grumpy towards everyone for no apparent reason, then maybe you might enjoy this film. If not, you’re just like me and there just wasn’t enough of anything to make this movie worthwhile.