"Oh Franny. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you last night. But what am I gonna do, sometimes I get crazy."
Manglehorn is director David Gordon Green's latest feature film; a character study of a locksmith who lives isolated and in regret over a past love that he let get away. I was a fan of the only two other Green films I had seen: Joe and Pineapple Express, and Manglehorn is more similar in style to Joe in its naturalistic approach, but it also combines it with poetic imagery. The relationship dynamics didn't work as well as they did in Joe, but Al Pacino delivers a solid and surprisingly restrained performance in the lead role that almost makes the film worth recommending. However there are several issues with the screenplay and with some of the characters introduced in the story. The film doesn't do a good job at exploring Manglehorn's relationship with his son or with a former baseball player who he coached in High School. These characters are introduced in the film to act as a filler, but they didn't add anything to the story which is at its best when it focuses on Al Pacino and his relationship with either his cat or the bank teller played by Holly Hunter. The scenes the two shared together were the highlight of the film which made me wish it would've centered exclusively around that relationship and ignored the scenes with his son and the quirky character played by Harmony Korine who overacted every scene he was in. The scenes with Korine felt surreal at times and the visual style during those scenes seemed to come right out from one of his movies. Those scenes never connected with me and took me out of the story. The screenplay is a bit overloaded with symbolic imagery and it is a bit heavy-handed.
Al Pacino delivers an understated performance as Manglehorn which is very rare coming from him. He's an eccentric man who can't seem to let go of his past. He spends his free time writing to his long lost love, and every time he sends the letters they are returned unopened. He also has a poor relationship with his successful son, Jacob (Chris Messina), who he rarely talks to. Jacob has a beautiful daughter, Kylie (Skylar Gasper), who Manglehorn likes to spend time with, but that is about their only common interest. One night while gambling in a small local town casino he runs into Gary (Harmony Korine), one of his former baseball players, who seems to admire his coach. He is loud mouthed and Manglehorn doesn't seem too pleased to listen to his admiration for him. He'd like to go on with his life unnoticed and in the tranquility of his home with his cat who he enjoys talking to (I kept on expecting the cat to talk back to him like in The Voices with Ryan Reynolds). His other weekly routine is going to the bank on Fridays and starting a friendly conversation with Dawn (Holly Hunter), the sweet bank teller. The two form a nice bond and begin hanging out, but Manglehorn is so obsessed by his past love that he shuts everyone else out at times. His and Dawn's relationship is the heart of the film and everything else is left undeveloped.
It is a shame that Al Pacino and Holly Hunter weren't given stronger material to work here because the two shined together on screen. The depressing tone of the film was a bit of a downer, but it does end on a stronger note thanks in most part because they finally focus on the relationship between the two of them. I think that Al Pacino's strong screen presence also made the film more bearable because at times the screenplay did push my patience with some of the strange scenes involving Korine's character. This is a film about regret and trying to move on in life and when it focuses on those issues it is at its best thanks to Pacino's commanding presence. This is by far my least favorite Green film of the three I've seen now, but I've heard his comedy efforts after Pineapple Express weren't very good so I've stayed away from Your Highness and The Sitter. I am still looking forward to catching up with Prince Avalanche, which seems pretty much like a film I'd enjoy. There are elements in Manglehorn that I enjoyed, especially the final act and the scenes between Pacino and Hunter, but there were too many flaws I couldn't ignore.