‘Goat’ settles for stirring the pot when it could have started a real dialogue
David Gordon Green
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.
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.
Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh recently made a new foray into television following his announced retirement from filmmaking to helm all episodes of the first season of Showtime’s The Knick. That’s not the only tv project Soderbergh is involved in, however, as he has also teamed up with filmmaker David Gordon Green, among others, as a producer for the potential series Red Oaks. Following a university student in 1985 New Jersey as he tries to figure out the next stage of his life while working at a tennis club, Amazon and the creators have released the pilot online in hopes of getting a series order. The pilot, while not touching on the full potential of the show, is nonetheless an entertaining episode with a lot of promise for the series.
David Gordon Green’s return to the South in Joe represents the director’s oddest and most violent yarn to date. Teaming with Nicholas Cage and the supremely young and talented Tye Sheridan (Mud, The Tree of Life), Gordon Green crafts a thorny and vile tale of fathers, sons, friendship, and redemption. Mostly functioning as a spiritual relative to the director’s 2004 film Undertow, Joe finds its director backtracking through coming-of-age tropes and jarring portraits of violence.
David Gordon Green says that he was inspired to make his most recent film, Prince Avalanche, after shooting a Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler that featured Clint Eastwood. His crew was about ten men, with not much star power (Eastwood isn’t on screen for two-thirds of it), and it was shockingly easy for Green considering how much money Chrysler was willing to put at stake. Prince Avalanche is similar, a film so easygoing and simple that it seems to have required no effort at all, but which never seems lazy.