DirectorDavid Gordon Green
Release Date(s)2015 (October 6, 2015)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: N/A
David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn is both simple and revelatory, a film of immense power and complexity that is as superficially unassuming as its title character. The fact that that character is played by Al Pacino has a lot to do with it; the veteran actor is at his absolute best here, turning in work on a par with his justly lauded performances in The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon. In his hands – and with the help of Green, screenwriter Paul Logan, and a pitch-perfect supporting cast – a modest character study turns into a profound meditation on aging, regret, and love.
The story is relatively straightforward: A.J. Manglehorn is a small-town locksmith whose life revolves mostly around his beloved cat Fanny and his memories of Clara, a woman he loved years earlier but let get away. Now, Manglehorn lives alone with Fanny, though his adult son (Mark Messina) and a former protégé (filmmaker Harmony Korine in a hilarious turn in front of the camera) continually try to reach out to him. There’s also a friendly bank teller (Holly Hunter) who has eyes for Manglehorn, but he seems incapable of taking advantage of what she has to offer even as he spends his life regretting having made that mistake with another woman.
That’s about it as far as plot goes, but Manglehorn is less about story than behavior and theme, and on this level it’s endlessly rewarding. Logan’s screenplay establishes four exceptionally original and complicated characters and then mines their relationships for all they’re worth; while Manglehorn is the focus, there are constant minor revelations about the supporting characters that hint at entire lifetimes of painful experience. How these characters deal with that pain and with their own mistakes and disappointments is brought to vivid, deeply affecting life by the performers, every single one of whom contributes career-best work here. The performances are all the more remarkable for how unforced they are; Hunter in particular is able to convey astonishingly complex emotions with the simplest gestures.
As good as Hunter and Messina are, at the end of the day this is Pacino’s movie, and his performance is positively inspirational in its audacity and ambition. The movie benefits from the wisdom and experience of an older actor, but Pacino plays the part with all the passion and experimentation of a twentysomething upstart – he alone among his peers seems devoted to the ideals of his youth, and of the golden age of 1970s movies that gave us his great collaborations with Coppola and Lumet. Green knows what he has in Pacino, and wisely tailors his visuals to the performance – which isn't the same as merely capturing the performance. Rather, Green and cinematographer Tim Orr find visual corollaries for Manglehorn’s inner state, alternating more objective camerawork with subjective, expressionistic compositions and lighting patterns that convey the turmoil that rages beneath the character’s placid surface. The delicate interplay of light, color, and movement is well served by the flawless Blu-ray transfer, which boasts a crystal clear 5.1 sound mix that captures every nuance of Pacino’s weary dialogue delivery and accentuates it with subtle but effective surround effects. Unfortunately, there are no extra features aside from a theatrical trailer, so the process by which this miraculous film was created is not illuminated on the disc. The movie itself, however, makes the Blu-ray well worth a look for anyone looking for a film that not only invites but earns comparison with the classics of its leading man’s past.
- Jim Hemphill