Manglehorn is a love letter to Al Pacino, according to director David Gordon Green, and will be a delight to Pacino fans and to people who have soft hearts for old men and cats. Manglehorn (Pacino) is a mess; he’s a cantankerous old coot who can’t change with the times, has no insight into why people see him the way they do, and worst of all, doesn’t have the foggiest notion about how to make himself lovable. He has deep-seated anger that causes him to lose his temper and destroy things. He can only show love and concern to animals, and they’re the only ones who can love him.
The thrust of the story is interesting, in that most of the film is about him and his problems, but it gets very tedious. He nurses some hope in a relationship he develops with a younger woman at the bank (Hunter), and even manages to go out with Dawn a couple of times. But his conversations with her are lessons in what not to do. He talks about himself almost entirely and only asks perfunctory questions about her. He goes into detail about a woman he was in love with years ago, which didn’t work out. Needless to say, this relationship with Dawn does not go anywhere.
Manglehorn and his son barely know one another, but make tentative approaches to connect from time to time. These are inevitably unsatisfying, and the son always leaves abruptly in disgust. Manglehorn does behave differently toward his granddaughter, more like how he does with his cat. But even when his son comes to him in a real crisis, Manglehorn is unsympathetic and withholding.
I usually like David Gordon Green’s productions in particular (George Washington, Prince Avalanche), but this one didn’t capture my interest so much, perhaps because it’s written by someone else (Paul Logan) or perhaps because Al Pacino plays a character he has essentially played many times before. And since this character is so obnoxious to me, that could bias me about the film. Pacino is, of course a premium actor, and his performance is up to that quality here. Pacino fans will no doubt applaud Manglehorn as a result.
Holly Hunter’s performance is up to her usual standards of quality, and the film really picked up for me when she was in a scene. Her distress at one point is truly moving, and will make many women in her circumstances identify strongly with Dawn. Messina, as Manglehorn’s son, is believable and shows flair in this and other performances. It is puzzling, though, why the character Gary (Korine) was included. It looks like a sequence that was patched in simply to give him a role.
Pacino as you very well know him.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland