Angelo (Al Pacino) works as a locksmith and key-maker, but lives a reclusive life with his cat, and spends his time mourning a long lost love. When he finally makes friends with Dawn (holly Hunter), a bank clerk with romance on her mind, the time comes for Angelo to finally confront the choices he has made that are holding him back.
David Gordon Green has had a mixed career as a director; smaller films like All The Real Girls and Undertow were quickly followed by mainstream comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Highness. 2013’s Prince Avalanche was a low-key quirky little film, and it seems that the director is trying to create the same feel in Manglehorn.
Al Pacino as Angelo Manglehorn, is the heart and soul of the film. Angelo seems like a decent man, but one who has made mistakes in his life, and seems to be held back by an unrequited love. Pacino is great as the understated and rather cranky Angelo, and although his attacks of anger seem to be rather over the top, they also feel rather justified. Holly Hunter makes Dawn a sweet and gentle woman, who just seems to be looking for companionship in her life. Hunter allows Dawn to be happy and jovial most of the time, but when she finally realises that Angelo is not quite as single as she though he was, her heartbreak is not only dignified, but incredibly touching. The rest of the cast is made up of Harmony Korine as Gary, a man who Angelo coached in Little League as a child, and Chris Messina as Angelo’s son Jacob.
Paul Logan’s screenplay focuses on the impact that not coming to terms with the past can have on us; Angelo is completely functional in the world, but once he gets inside his own home, his obsessions and temper come to the fore. There are some nice scenes with Angelo’s cat too, which go a long way to humanising the character and keeping him rooted in the real world. The dialogue is rather simple, but pleasingly so, and acts as a strong contrast to the flowery and hyperbolic letters that Angelo writes to the one that got away.
As director, David Gordon Green does well with establishing Angelo as a character, and having him interact with the people he wants in his life – there is a scene with his grand daughter that is especially touching – but as soon as he spends him with his son or the hugely talkative Gary, the scenes feel forced and the audience begins to lose sympathy for the central character. As well as this, there are several scenes in the film that feel unnecessary and only serve to confuse the plot; such as a spontaneous singsong in a bank and a car crash scene that is admittedly beautifully shot, but seems shoehorned in.
In all, Manglehorn is a film about a flawed man realising that he is actually holding himself back. The film is an interesting examination of grieving, obsession and forced solitude, and Pacino and Hunter shine. Messina does less well in a small but unnecessary role, and David Gordon Green’s direction, while well done with Pacino and Hunter, feels inconsistent at times.