By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on July 11, 2015)
One of my favorite John Cassavetes films is Minnie and Moskowitz. There’s a memorable scene where Moskowitz (Seymour Cassel) sits down in a restaurant and is “befriended” by a chatty stranger (Timothy Carey), who leads with way too much information (“My wife died. I’m lonely. I live in the same building for 28 years…walk-up.”). It’s a five-minute walk-on for Carey, but he brilliantly conveys that his character has enough backstory to generate an entire other film. Manglehorn is that film.
Al Pacino stars as the eponymous character in David Gordon Green’s episodic study of an aging, lonely locksmith moping through his days in a Texas burg. Stoop-shouldered and world-weary, Manglehorn is the kind of guy who can make a daily walk to the mailbox look like a trek down The Trail of Tears (he’s long past caring about having to reach through a whirling cyclone of angry honeybees who have converted it into a hive). He’s the kind of guy who goes home every night to a pantry full of cat food…and regret.
If you aren’t in the mood for a particularly discernible story arc, this film might be the ticket. I don’t mean that in a negative way; just know that Green (and screenwriter Paul Logan) have taken a naturalistic, low-key tack that hearkens back to films of the 1970s by the likes of the aforementioned Cassavetes (directors like Hal Ashby and Bob Rafelson come to mind as well). In a way, Pacino is getting back to his roots (which are, after all, firmly implanted in low-key 1970s character studies, like The Panic in Needle Park and Scarecrow). It’s also a treat to see him playing off the equally formidable character actor Holly Hunter (as a sweet natured bank teller). Not for all tastes, but off the beaten track.