Saturday, 28 November 2015

Manglehorn

In the 1970s, 80s and 90s; Al Pacino was a force to be reckoned with. The 70s brought us The Godfather, the 80s Scarface and the 90s Heat. But moving into the 2000s, his good work has been buried under his desperate, cringe worthy appearances in total shite which came to a depressing low point alongside Adam Sandler in Jack & Jill.  But after a brilliant performance in Danny Collins this year, here he is with another fine performance in David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn - out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. Pacino is BACK. But outside of his performance here, is there much else to recommend in Manglehorn? Is there much to even say? This could be a short review…


A.J. Manglehorn (Pacino) is a locksmith who lives alone with his cat Fanny and spends the majority of his time thinking about the past. He is an old man, existing rather than living, and melancholically stumbling and bumbling through his days with no purpose or future. He knows he is responsible for his misery, and that his mistakes have caused his loneliness. But he accepts he is too old to change it. It sounds depressing, and it sounds empty. In a way, it is. Manglehorn has no real plot or narrative drive. It’s more of a character study, a snapshot of an existence that although not based on a true story could easily be that old guy you see at the bus stop, or that old guy you saw in the park. Everyone has a story that made them alone, and this film reminds us that. 


The only way a film like Manglehorn could work is with a strong leading performance. Al Pacino is brilliant here, subtly and sensitively portraying elderly loneliness without resorting to being too cantankerous or grumpy like Bill Murray’s turn in St. Vincent. His inability to connect with anyone and his regret-filled voiceover is portrayed so well that you’ll find yourself desperate to meet the fictional A.J. Manglehorn and give him a hug. But outside of this phenomenal performance, there is nothing else going on. The supporting cast are average at best, with Holly Hunter and Chris Messina doing nothing overly memorable while Harmony Korine (director of Spring Breakers…yes…) feels completely out of place as a local pimp. 

Outside of the cast, the film is arguably well-directed as a character study by David Gordon Green, especially considering he’s the man behind Pineapple Express and Your Highness. But you almost feel like he wanted Manglehorn to be more than that. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Effectively, it is sad scene after sad scene as we watch the lonely Manglehorn feed his cat or read his mail or walk around in a state of loneliness, unable to talk to anyone. It’s hard enough to see it in real life when we encounter these lonely souls in the street, but to watch 2 hours of it is just depressing. I’m all for a character study when that is the intention of the film and it is done with power behind the camera as well as in front of it. But here, something doesn’t feel right. And the problem certainly doesn’t lie with Pacino.


So to conclude, what is Manglehorn? Hard to say. It’s a vehicle for Al Pacino to show us what he can do, it’s a reminder that lonely old people have stories that made them that way…it’s not much else. Al Pacino shines in the lead role and could pick up an award for his work here. But nobody else brings anywhere near enough to the table to match Pacino’s performance, making a film that is difficult to recommend for anyone other than Pacino fans.

Manglehorn is a tedious, empty film that is just about saved by a winning performance from Pacino. 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Sam Love


Manglehorn at CeX


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