Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, Chris Messina, Skylar Gasper, June Griffin Garcia, Rebecca Franchione, Elizabeth Lestina, Lara Shah.
THE PLOT: A self-confessed wounded man, smalltown Texan locksmith A.J. Manglehorn (Pacino) is a quiet man with “real pain in my heart”. Just why that is we get to learn as A.J.’s narration reads us letters to the one that got away, Clara – letters that keep being returned to sender. It’s a state of affairs that has made A.J. a loner, and, beyond the happy face he puts on for his customers and his beloved 6-year-old granddaughter Kylie (Gasper), a plainly bitter and misanthropic man.
The only true ray of sunshine and hope emanates from perky bank teller Dawn (Hunter), the two exchanging witticisms and glances every Friday, as A.J. does his weekly earnings deposit. The question is, can A.J. turn off his crippling hatred for the world long enough to let Dawn in…?
THE VERDICT: In that strange twilight world where he’s a film legend but – as with so many of his fellow 1970s heavyweight contenders (De Niro, Nicholson, etc) – his latest offerings tend not to get the hairs on the back of your neck tingling, or many bums on multiplex seats. Even when, as with MANGLEHORN, you have the well-trodden novelty of seeing a big old lion takes a stroll through indie park.
Having gone beyond parody quite a few years ago, there’s always the hope with an actor like Pacino that the combination of his immense baggage and his celebrated talent might just spark a great film. And with David Gordon Green – who has scored both in the mainstream (with the likes of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and TV’s EASTBOUND & DOWN) as well as on the arthouse circuit (GEORGE WASHINGTON, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, PRINCE AVALANCHE) – behind the camera, those hopes get a little higher. So, sad to say that, even though MANGLEHORN definitely has its low-watt charms, and Pacino, Hunter and the gang pull their punches here just about enough to make you forget they’re very big fishes in this small pond of a story, there’s a distinct lack of purpose about this slacker version of AS GOOD AS IT GETS. As first-time writer Paul Logan has just found out, a heavy slice of sleight ain’t easy to get right.
Review by Paul Byrne

Review by Paul Byrne
2.0Low-watt charming
  • filmbuff2011

    Continuing his return to his indie roots, director David Gordon Green’s (Joe, Prince Avalanche) new film Manglehorn could also be one of his best. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) is a lonely, heart-broken locksmith living in Texas. He still pines over the woman he lost, unable to move on even at his age. His most committed relationship is with his cat Fanny, who isn’t eating anymore. He has a son, Jacob (Chris Messina) who he sees occasionally but doesn’t really understand. Friend Gary (Harmony Korine) tries to get Manglehorn interested in his latest venture – a sun-tanning business. He also flirts with kindly bank teller Dawn (Holly Hunter) but isn’t prepared to let her into his locked-up heart. She might be able to find the key to it though, if only he would stop talking about his lost love. Maybe Manglehorn just needs to start over and find himself again… After the okay-ish Danny Collins, you’d be forgiven for finding some similarities in the plotline in Manglehorn. But this is a superior film, showcasing Pacino’s talent for under-playing when required, delivering a quieter and more heart-felt performance (more Carlito’s Way than Scarface). Manglehorn is a comlex character and through Pacino’s skilled hands, we get to see the multiple layers burying his character in his own personal prison. The change in Pacino’s character is gradual rather than instant, as he slowly comes back to realising what is most important in life. He’s well supported by Hunter, still a fine actress who we don’t see enough of anymore. If there’s a message that Green is trying to convey, it’s that people matter. We’re all flawed, but we can always start over and change our lives, hopefully for the better. There’s much to admire in this low-key film, from Pacino’s subtle but moving performance, to Green’s playful direction. The last shot is just magical. Go see – you’ll be surprised. ****