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New Release Review - MANGLEHORN

An aging locksmith refuses to let go of the past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Starring: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, Chris Messina



"David Gordon Green has dabbled in magic realism before, but never to this degree. It's an aspect that will likely prove frustrating for viewers expecting a standard character drama, but it adds a fascinating extra dimension to an otherwise mundane slice of working class Americana."



Over the last two decades, Al Pacino has become something of a joke, thanks in no small part to his outrageously over the top, albeit thoroughly entertaining, turns throughout the '90s in movies like Scent of a Woman ("Whoo-ah!"), City Hall ("It was a palace!") and The Devil's Advocate ("He's an absentee landlord!"). While this century has seen a more subdued Pacino, he's proved a poor judge of a script, taking roles in such duds as S1m0ne, Jack & Jill and Righteous Kill, the latter reteaming him with Robert De Niro, long after anyone cared for such a team-up. Recently it seems Pacino is enjoying a late career rejuvenation, winning praise for his role as a washed up singer in Danny Collins and as an aging actor in the yet to be released adaptation of Philip Roth's The Humbling. Completing a trilogy, in which the actor seems to be examining his own mortality, is David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, which offers us Pacino's best performance this century.
He plays AJ Manglehorn, a small town Texas locksmith obsessed with a long past relationship. Everyday he writes a letter to a long lost lover, and every day he receives a previous letter marked return to sender. The cycle repeats, his basement filling with returned mail like the lair of a serial killer. Manglehorn lives a solitary existence, spending more time doting on his cat than interacting with other people. On Fridays he makes a trip to his bank, where teller Dawn (Holly Hunter, who seems to have aged backwards in recent years) enjoys a minor flirtation that goes unnoticed by the preoccupied Manglehorn.
Manglehorn's lack of interest in the human race is unrequited. The loving townsfolk speak of him in mystical terms, recounting anecdotes of seemingly supernatural feats performed by the former little league coach. If these tales are to be believed, he seems to possess an inexplicable gift for healing animals, and a swarm of bees mysteriously nest in his well used mailbox likes bats in the rafters of a vampire's dwelling. In a striking sequence that owes more than a little to Godard's Weekend, Manglehorn passes the scene of a multi-car pileup, a child's dead body dangling from a car door. We don't realise it at the time, but later, upon hearing of Manglehorn's tale of reviving a lifeless dog, we wonder if he could have performed the same trick on the child.
Green has dabbled in magic realism before, but never to this degree. It's an aspect that will likely prove frustrating for viewers expecting a standard character drama, but if you're willing to play along, it adds a fascinating extra dimension to an otherwise mundane slice of working class Americana. A closing homage to Antonioni's Blow Up adds to the ambiguity and makes for one of the best endings of the year.



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