Between “Danny Collins,” “The Humbling” and now “Manglehorn,” legendary actor Al Pacino seems to be embracing his sensitive side. All three movies find him giving introspective performances as wounded old souls, desperate to find a new lease on life. Pacino’s days of playing scene-chomping cops or criminals appear to be over and he’s certainly embraced his old age. While this career move is admirable on his part, the movies themselves just haven’t been very good.
“Manglehorn”—written and directed by David Gordon Green—is the worst of the trio. Pacino plays A.J Manglehorn, a locksmith who can’t get over the fact that Claire—the love of his life—walked out on him years ago. This has left him sullen and dazed, trapped in a self-imposed prison of regret.
It’s an intriguing enough premise for an Indie short painfully stretched out to ninety-seven minutes. The picture is a series of rambling, aimless sequences depicting Manglehorn in his stupefied melancholy old age. He talks to his cat Fanny, he flirts with a bank teller played by Holly Hunter. He tries to reconnect with his estranged son played by Chris Messina. Indie filmmaker Harmony Korine even shows up as a man who used to play on the little league baseball team Manglehorn coached. But none of these reoccurring interactions go anywhere in the long run. The action moves at Tortoise speed and I’d say about ninety percent of the film is throat clearing, not really getting started until the end.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with movies that chose to be slow and aimless but they also need to develop and eventually build to something substantial, something to make the aimlessness worth it. There’s hardly any story or character development to be found in “Manglehorn.” Each scene basically says the same thing over and over-- that Manglehorn is depressed and detached from reality. To spice things up Green inserts poetic slow motion montages (usually with Pacino reading letters he’s written to Claire in voice over) and sequences that border on the surreal. But these moments are just window dressing, giving one the illusion of depth.
It all gets to be repetitive and tedious after a while. At one point I wanted to go through my TV screen, grab Manglehorn by the shirt and yell, “stop being so mopey and do something! And worst of all the film builds to an underwhelming and frustrating “happy ending,” which feels more like it should be a jumping off point than a conclusion.
Overall, “Manglehorn” is a whole lot of nothing. It’s a waste of Pacino’s time (who clearly hasn’t lost his love of acting) and it's a waste of the audience’s time.