Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina, Harmony Korine
The first thought in my head is that writer/director David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn is better than his last SXSW film, Joe. Al Pacino also gives one of his best performances in a long while; I would have to go all the way back to Insomnia to find a time when I enjoyed him this much.
Green, who introduced the film, made it a point to mention that he wrote this odd ball, angry, and always difficult character specifically for the Oscar winner, who he had met years prior. Holly Hunter (The Piano) is also one of the film’s strong points. In certain moments Manglehorn, which is set and shot in Austin, is very reminiscent of As Good As it Gets for a variety of different reasons.
AJ Manglehorn (Pacino) lives alone with his kitty cat Fanny, who refuses to eat. His days are filled at work making keys, opening doors and locks for locals who find themselves without access. He rarely sees his son (Messina), and when he does it’s always a strenuous visit.
Each Friday he visits the bank to deposit checks, where he flirts with the teller Dawn (Hunter). They discuss their pets and she finally insinuates that she would like to see him socially outside the once a week bank visit. They have a pancake date and she slowly sees the error of his ways and the reason Fanny is his only friend. Manglehorn flows through life surrounded by watermelon crashes, lobby serenades and mimes with balloons, often missing the important things in front of him.
Al Pacino also gives one of his best performances in a long while.
One of the things I like about Green and certain indie directors is how they select particular and unique occupations for their characters. Manglehorn could have been anything, but he really uses the locksmith persona in so many interesting ways.
Manglehorn is similar to James L. Brook’s As Good As it Gets in the age difference between Pacino and Hunter. “The price has went up four dollars,” he complains to anyone who will listen. You could call the awkward dinner scene between Manglehorn and Dawn the climax, but it’s also very similar in nature to that now iconic scene between Nicholson and Hunt.
There are scenes that might confuse the audience; for example, is the watermelon representative of blood and guts, or did a watermelon truck just cause a really bad accident? Green doesn’t seem interested in giving us answers to many of these oddities, but instead leaves them open for interpretation as we see things through Manglehorn’s eyes. He ponders the lost art of mimes, “where did they all go”? Some of the pondering and meandering slows the story down to a bore and makes it hard to find the interest to keep watching.
I did think the inclusion of director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) was often unfunny and unnecessary with all the other oddities the film offers it’s just a distraction. You can find Manglehorn playing On Demand.
Pacino, Hunter and one charismatic cat capture some of the weirdness in Austin thanks to David Gordon Green