Directed by David Gordon Green.
Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina, Harmony Korine and Natalie Wilemon.
Left heartbroken by the woman he loved and lost many years ago, Manglehorn, an eccentric small-town locksmith, tries to start his life over again with the help of a new friend.
With a story bristling with an emotional frailty that is both overstated and jarring, Manglehorn is often just as awkward as the lead character’s name. An exercise in observing just what happens when a bitter old man gets older and bitterer; David Gordon Green’s film is, to put it bluntly, something of a struggle.
The fact that it stars Pacino – an actor who is almost always engaging no matter who he is playing – only goes to show how weak the script and overall scope of the film is. While it’s true that Pacino is eminently watchable and listenable, unfortunately in this case that gruff world-weary voice of his is intoning formulaic lines and cliché. Put it like this – you know it’s a problem when Al’s feline co-star out guns him in the interesting stakes.
Pacino plays A.J. Manglehorn, an isolated small-town locksmith who has never quite got what he wants out of life. He spends his time tied up at work with the keys and locks of his work place, acting out a poorly constructed metaphor of how he just can’t unlock the keys to his heart.
Obsessed with the memory of a former lover, we follow Manglehorn through disjointed scenes of him feeding his beloved Persian cat Fanny, partying with local massage parlour owner Harmony Korine and attempting to stabilise his relationship with his successful businessman son Chris Messina.
Into this day-to-day cycle steps bank teller Holly Hunter, the only truly likeable character in the film (apart from the cat that is). She and Manglehorn have a stilted romantic liaison which he looks set to ruin at any point, simply by being himself. In the background there is a hint of a criminal past, but as with much of the story, it doesn’t really go anywhere.
And that’s pretty much it.
The film suffers largely from not really knowing what it wants to do. There are moments of oddly dark slapstick humour when Pacino lets off some steam in that trademarked bravura style of his. Trouble is, it all seems a bit forced and at odds with the haphazard nature of much of the rest of it. Quite a shame, as it’s a film – as any starring Pacino always is – that everyone will want to like and enjoy. However, what we want and what we get sure as hell are not always the same thing.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer