MANGLEHORN Review: David Gordon Green Hushes Al Pacino

A melancholy and somewhat thin outing.

Manglehorn works with keys. Manglehorn has a cat. Manglehorn’s cat swallows one of his keys. Manglehorn’s cat needs to get surgery. Manglehorn’s cat gets surgery, and it’s totally fucking gross.

Written by Paul Logan, Manglehorn sits comfortably among David Gordon Green’s most recent films. While lacking the humor of Prince Avalanche, or the violent edge of Joe, we’re still ambling through character pieces that take their time and don’t really sound enticing when described to others. This particular one is flat out melancholy.

Manglehorn is a locksmith who used to be a baseball coach. At some point he lost the love of his life, married someone in whom he was less interested, and had a kid he doesn’t much care for. Now he’s old and maybe trying to do a bit better with his life. He’s sort of a dick, almost in an accidental way, but he’s not totally unlikable.

I think. I actually watched the film twice, and both times I found myself hypnotized by it to the point where things like plot details and character history reveals turned into a kind of haze. Green’s direction and Pacino’s quiet performance both take understatement to an almost exaggerated degree. It’s not unpleasant, but some will find the film more annoying than moving or of narrative interest.

This haziness is further hightened by little touches of magic realism throughout. There appears to be more to Manglehorn than we ever get to see. On a few occasions people (yes, one of them is Harmony Korine) go on and on about him, telling anecdotes that make him seem like some kind of gutter angel. The stories don’t really match up with the character we see enough to enrich him, unfortunately.

But he doesn’t need enriching. Pacino actually acting is fun to watch. As a shambling old man, he’s adorable, even, especially when inexplicably clutching his cat for walks through the woods.

This is a paper thin film, most suited for those who are looking for a meditative mood piece instead of any real plot or narrative. I found myself quite fond of it, but David Gordon Green certainly isn’t trying to please everyone here. Except maybe Harmony Korine fans.