At SXSW: Pacino soars, but can’t save ‘Manglehorn’
Manglehorn (Al Pacino) is a key maker who lives with his best friend — a cat. Every Friday, he goes to the bank, where he often flirts with a lovely woman named Dawn (Holly Hunter). 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, Manglehorn can’t let go of the woman he lost.
“Manglehorn” is the latest film from director David Gordon Green, and it’s unfortunately not as good as the two previous films that he shot in Austin. 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, one another. The wandering and questionable sequences beg the question: what kind of film is this?
Al Pacino is known as a loud, eccentric man who yells and waves his arms around as well as one of America’s greatest actors. As Manglehorn, we see a painful, quiet side of him not seen in his previous roles. 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 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.
Green’s film collection 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 lonely older man, but somehow he makes it work for part of the film.
His direction is 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” job, and the key maker role works well — Manglehorn 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, 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 Pacino because she brings the most emotion to the film. Chris Messina is fine, but his character is another trope that goes against Pacino to cause some family tension. His story never felt authentic.
For a relatively short film, it did seem like hours passed while I watched this slow, mostly uninteresting story unfold. There’s a lot of narration by Al Pacino as we see shots from the past and read Manglehorn’s love letters onscreen. Those scenes seemed odd enough and the film didn’t need the Gary character at all. He’s like a character out of “Spring Breakers” — there’s a part where he is running a tanning salon and offering happy-ending massages. I can’t make this stuff up and truly wish it wasn’t a part of the film.
“Manglehorn” is probably the David Gordon Green film that I’ve been the least interested in, and it’s one that I don’t need to revisit. Pacino and 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 toward everyone for no apparent reason, then maybe you might enjoy this film. If not, you’re like me, and there wasn’t enough of anything to make this movie worthwhile.