In the summer of 1990, Warren Beatty’s labor-of-love, Dick Tracy, …
Manglehorn dabbles in the strange and peculiar, but at its core, it may be director David Gordon Green’s safest and least rewarding drama yet. The film contains weird scribbles in its margins, but the narrative is thin and contains little chew on. A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) is a grizzled locksmith and wounded soul living in small-town Texas, still aching for a woman named Clara who got away many years ago. He sends regretful letters to her like clockwork but they always find a way back to his mailbox unread. Manglehorn now spends his days cutting locks, looking after his ill cat and making kind, flirty conversation with Dawn (Holly Hunter), the friendly bank teller he visits each week.
Angelo Manglehorn (Al Pacino) is a man adrift. He has no connections to tie him to the world, no close relationships with family or friends. As a locksmith, he spends his days crafting spare keys or helping people who have locked themselves out of their cars. When the day is done, he returns home to spend the evening with his sole companion: his cat, Fanny. Much like its eponymous character, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn drifts aimlessly, never bothering to make meaningful connections between characters or story elements.
In 2009, New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani referred to Philip Roth’s novella The Humbling as “an overstuffed short story, […] a slight, disposable work about an aging man’s efforts to grapple with time and loss and mortality, and the frustrations of getting old.” In 2015, that sentiment rings just as true of Barry Levinson’s adaptation of the same work. The Humbling runs too long, dawdles too much, makes hollow caricatures of its women, and muddles its intentions. Its most redeeming features are its performances; Al Pacino is in top form, with Greta Gerwig playfully keeping up. But neither can elevate this failed attempt at pathos above what it is: bland.
David Gordon Green has never allowed himself to be easily pinned down as a filmmaker. After making his name with dreamy independent films about relationships and growing up, he moved onto big budget comedies of varying quality. While even his most dire efforts bring a certain amount of style (even the awful Your Highness had a compelling visual softness not usually associated with medieval stoner comedies), many have mourned the direction of his career. His newest effort, Manglehorn, feels like a bastard child of these two worlds. In many ways it’s his most visually adventurous film since his career began, but it’s hardly a return to his early work in terms of feel, theme or style.
Read our appreciation of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve here and here, …
Movie stars, as we know them, are not so much dead in 2013 as much as they’re no longer making movies. Celebrity has stretched far beyond film or television; people become famous now without having accomplished much of anything, just for being at the right place at the right time, or tweeting out the right scandalous photo to set afire the comments sections at TMZ or Perez Hilton. Though movies cost more than they used to—both to make and to partake—they are less frequently headlined by a man or woman whose very presence ensures bankability. A handful of movie stars remain, yet even someone like Robert Downey, Jr. can only guarantee a movie will make back its profit and then some when he’s donned his Iron Man suit.