Film Review – Manglehorn
In the pantheon of actors who have aged onscreen, one reoccurring motif seems to be the story of the now aged man, withered with a life of memory and regret, must come to terms with their life and find meaning in it all. If this seems all too familiar, that’s because it is. Movies from On Golden Pond to About Schmidt and more recently Nebraska all feature a male lead who’s wound up cantankerous and withered with regret. Now it’s Al Pacino’s turn.
With all the style and color of a Nicholas Winding Refn movie (Drive, Only God Forgives), and the emotionality (minus the humor) of Alexander Payne (Nebraska, About Schmidt), Manglehorn tells the story of an aging locksmith named Manglehorn (Pacino) who spends his time making keys and pining over a long lost love. Heavy voice over work from Pacino laments for his lost love Clara in letters he writes to her in hopes of rekindling what they once had. Meanwhile Manglehorn takes care of a new pet cat with a bowel obstruction named Fanny, and shifts from locations mumbling about how he hates that everything has changed.
The otherwise overplayed drama is derived from Fanny having to undergo surgery and recovery while Manglehorn tries to make do with interacting among people. The best interaction comes from Manglehorn’s encounters with a local tanning bed salon operator, and ex-child baseball player under Manglehorn’s coaching, named Gary (Harmony Korine). Korine, director of the recent Spring Breakers, turns in a particularly slimy performance that can only be assumed is in response to accusations of Korine’s own lifestyle. Gary provides the temptation of continued bad choices that Manglehorn must face. Meanwhile a banking clerk named Dawn (Holly Hunter) tries to woo Manglehorn’s affections, much to this reviewer’s dismay.
Either sensing the all-too-familiar story work at play, or just wanting to be noticed, director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, George Washington) shoots the movie bathed in bright, nighttime colors with over stylized camera work and editing. Quick cuts, and flashy shots at time resemble Oliver Stone and Refn at their most subdued. It’s a shame then that so much style, and some of Pacino’s best acting in years, is poured into a rather drab and predictable story. So many moments that feel ripe for refreshingly honest sincerity are waylaid by predictable choices that undercut the moment with forced sincerity.
With a score that shifts between modern electronic music (ala Cliff Martinez) and something you’re likely to find in an inspirational film or editing reel, the tone of the movie feels just as derivative as the story it’s telling. Holly Hunter, who’s turned in some of the most commanding female roles of her time is now relegated to being overemotional and in need of male attention. That’s not to say she isn’t great in no matter what role she has, she is, it’s another shame to see her in only this.
David Gordon Green has had an interesting and unpredictable career ranging from the indie darling George Washington to a couple stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness and back to indie dramadies with Prince Avalanche and Joe. I suppose then it’s forgivable (note a sense of sarcasm) that he’s given a pass for a miss like this. Unfortunately it’s just a shame that so much great talent was put to work on a meandering and overly sentimental story that’s already been done, and to better effect, before.