Manglehorn

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Manglehorn
"Logan's writing fails to match Pacino's restraint, while Green's direction seems - like his central character - to be filled with a longing for more, yet being held back from going there."

For some time now, Al Pacino has never knowingly been undersold when it comes to tackling roles. Like fellow Godfather great Robert De Niro, he has had a tendency to approach parts in the manner of someone who has been employed to chew up the scenery. Under the direction of David Gordon Green, however, he reins that all in to present a character study of minor key redemption that is one of his most contained and affecting performances in a long time.

He sinks into the crumpled folds of Angelo Manglehorn, an ageing locksmith who, in heavy metaphor that is a weakness from first-time scriptwriter Paul Logan, has also closed off his feelings since he split up with Carla, the woman who stole his heart. Since then, he has been writing regular letters to her, filled with the florid language of the love-lorn but which all come back to his letterbox marked "return to sender". The main love of his life is his cat Fanny - who, ironically/symbolically, has a key trapped inside her - and his little granddaughter Kylie (Skylar Gasper), who gets most of the attention he can no longer find a way to give his high-flying stock trader son (Chris Messina).

Logan's writing fails to match Pacino's restraint, while Green's direction seems - like his central character - to be filled with a longing for more, yet being held back from going there. Take, for example, a scene midway through the film, in which Manglehorn walks past a car crash covered in broken water melons and shot like a still-life tableau. It's the sort of surreal inflection that Green worked into 2013's Prince Avalanche - and there are hints of more mystical elements in this film too - but here they feel less a part of the unfolding story than images he was desperate to feature, no matter what.

There is plenty to admire elsewhere with the direction, however, such as kaleidoscopic sequences of dissolving images, illustrating the way in which many of the characters talk without listening - including a pimp cameo from Harmony Korine and Manglehorn, himself, who seems obvlivious to the fact his stream-of-consciousness chatter is upsetting the sweet bank teller (Holly Hunter, matching Pacino effortlessly) he takes on a date.

Better in its smaller, human moments than its grand gestures, the mixed message direction - neither fully willing to embrace magic realism or entirely shy away from it - make this one of the more minor entries in Green's back catalogue. His talent still shines best when he takes full control.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2015
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Tale of a locksmith who can't come to terms with losing the love of his life.
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