Directed by David Gordon Green
Released June 19, 2015
Movies always risk inheriting the conditions of their main characters, which can include their outlook on life, their demeanors, and the energy they put into the things they do. While this can be effective, it can also be cripplingly uninviting. In “Manglehorn,” the title character lives his life in a way that is far from put-together, with little taking him from moment to the next. The film adopts that same approach, which is inherently problematic since it proves to be far from engaging.
Al Pacino has been acting for decades, earning Oscar nominations more than forty years ago for early roles in films like “The Godfather” and “Dog Day Afternoon” and finally winning twenty-three years ago for a career-topping performance in “Scent of a Woman.” Since then, Pacino has made his mark mostly in TV movies on HBO, portraying a dying gay man, Dr. Kavorkian, and Phil Spector. His films have been less commendable, and the image of Pacino sitting with a cat in his lap and a tired expression on his face on this film’s poster doesn’t recommend its quality above the usual level of Pacino’s projects lately.
“Manglehorn” begins with little dialogue, letting the loneliness of Manglehorn’s life sink in. The local locksmith cares for his cast, who he learns requires surgery, the way that many care about other people. He laments to those around him, particularly his unreceptive adult son (Chris Messina), about how he lost the love of his life, who happens not to have been his ex-wife but instead the woman he wishes he had pursued. It’s easy to see that Mangelhorn has regrets and that he wishes his life was different, but there’s not enough here to form a complete story that serves as interesting enough in its own right.
There’s a certain look that has shown up in Pacino’s eyes in some of his more eccentric performances of late signifying a certain zaniness and commitment to character. While the poster for this film could have indicated that it would be appropriate here, Manglehorn is spared that kind of mannerism. His story may not be exciting, but at least the lead performance is appropriately muted and not over-the-top where it easily could have been. Pacino’s latest film is a decent but unengaging look at getting older and looking back on life that hardly ranks as a must-see.