Manglehorn Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

David Gordon Green’s ‘Manglehorn’ after his protagonist Angelo Mangelhorn may be a small film but it has a big heart and Al Pacino at the top his game. Pacino’s explosive talent lurks beneath the surface of his character and we are never sure when and how Angelo Manglehorn will erupt. The story follows Angelo, a locksmith now advanced in years and bitter about the choices he’s made in life’s journey. One choice in particular drives his despair and almost intolerable self-pity. Ironically, the locksmith Angelo cannot unlock his wounded heart, bring himself out of the past and into fully present consciousness.

His son Jacob (Chris Messina), whose mother Angelo says “he didn’t love”, has gone on to college and a seemingly successful business career which Angelo does not relate to or care to understand. The father-son relationship is cool, if not antagonistic. An attractive friendly bank teller Claire (Holly Hunter) catches his attention but in a moment of romantic opportunity he insensitively can only bring himself to a nostalgic and almost beatified remembrance of his lost love Clara. This after Claire delivers a moving description of how the simplest things here and now bring wonder and love into her life, including and surprisingly Angelo Manglehorn.

Angelo it seems uses the past to deflect the present, a method against feeling anything at all. He shuts out everyone except his cat — again, a great piece of irony since the cat is suffering from a blocked bowl, unable to eat because she swallowed a key. Gordon Green builds significant tension with the camera peering and moving around Angelo’s anger as it festers, but the film unexpectedly and pleasantly becomes a parable of not only despair, but also of hope. As with any good parable, no judgement or resolution is rendered but only a window onto the complexities of relationships in very particular and real circumstances.

Gordon Green’s ‘Manglehorn’ is a very good parable leaving you with a deeply emotional understanding of the human condition, if not an intellectual one. It has grit and a heightened sense of realism that Pacino, Hunter and Messina seamlessly thread into their characters. It also helps that Gordon Green’s casting recruited mostly locals outside the main players. We become immersed in a layered yet simple world that is unsentimental, sacred and profane with joy alongside hurt and despair, no gloss. In one scene, and for a reason the film audience can only wonder about, a man enters the bank where Manglehorn frequents Claire, flowers in hand, then spontaneously breaks out with an incandescent hymn of love to his woman who works there. She joins him in the moving chorus. Gordon Green’s camera pans the stunned and awed clientele in the bank. Angelo can only and characteristically offer a rudimentary and almost dismissive “very nice’ to this powerful and extraordinary song of affection and dedication.

The impact of Pacino’s negative energy is palatable but it is so carefully restrained, seething just underneath Angelo Manglehorn’s crusty exterior — and precisely because of this balanced restraint, Pacino nails this discomforting character. To the contrary, we are comforted by Holly Hunter’s compelling and likeable Claire. It’s actually lamentable that we don’t get more of her. She and Manglehorn’s granddaughter Kylie are the only antidotes to Angelo’s destructive and self indulgent examination of life.

There are several other moments in this little gem that will grow on you hours after the film has concluded, some very touching, others surprising. And I’m still hopefully wondering how Angelo Manglehorn will do. A must see. Also stars Harmony Korine and shows next at TIFF.

Alfredo Romano

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