David Gordon Green was once focusing his energy on making sub-standard stoner comedies; from Pineapple Express, to Your Highness to The Sitter. But then he seemed to have had a change of heart (thankfully), and has since turned his attentions to more sombre affairs: pensive, character driven dramas of forsaken individuals – and his latest, Manglehorn, is the best yet.
Al Pacino takes on the role of the eponymous protagonist, an eccentric, melancholic locksmith who yearns for his old flame, Clara. With a room full of unreturned, unopened letters in his apartment, his longing seems to be one-sided, and yet he’s offered a route out of this suffocating isolation, when he’s asked out on a date by Dawn (Holly Hunter). However she soon realises he has eyes only for his former lover, but she knows he could happier with her – if only he’d listen. He also meets a crossroads with his son, Jacob (Chris Messina), another seemingly incompatible relationship that is a burden on this lonely man’s humble existence.
Pacino turns in a notably vulnerable display, as following on from Danny Collins, he proves that he’s still got what it takes to illuminate the silver screen while portraying such an eclectic range of characters. However sadly his performance is greater than the narrative at hand, Manglehorn being a film lacking in palpable structure and linearity. In some ways there are comparisons to be made to Inside Llewyn Davis in that regard – but there was a certain charm and wit to the latter which is lost within this endeavour. That’s not to discredit Green, however, who must be commended for his meticulous approach, with several nuances and subtle metaphors that help the viewer to inhabit Manglehorn’s world. Such as the fact he has a beehive by his mailbox – getting stung every time he opens it and realises Clara still hasn’t written back.
There’s also a surrealistic undercurrent that supplements the piece, and adds a certain charm to proceedings that makes for an enjoyable experience. Like a dark fairy tale of sorts, Manglehorn’s special talents are alluded too on occasion, and though a naturalistic tale with well-crafted, identifiable creations, this film has that spark that transcends the realism on show, and makes for a film that is deserving of a second viewing.