The less that’s said about Al Pacino’s film choices in the past ten years, the better. To see one of the greatest actors of all time reduced to films like Jack and Jill, Righteous Kill and Gigli, hasn’t been pleasant. However, over the past year or so Pacino seems to have been making a bit of a comeback, by choosing interesting projects where the actor can embrace his age.
His latest, Manglehorn, is another return to form for Pacino, who’s given free reign in his performance of the titular character. The film itself is a character study of A.J. Manglehorn, a locksmith in his later years, who is still coming to terms with the loss of his one true love years before.
He hardly sees his son, has practically no money and despite being a bit of a legend around his town, his only form of interaction is with his cat, Fanny. He’s given a shot to start his life again though, when he starts to form a relationship with bank teller, Dawn -played by the endearing, but underused Holly Hunter.
A lonely, eccentric and angry character; it’s easy to see why Pacino – an actor famous for playing unhinged people – would be attracted to a role of this kind. His performance is the best thing about the film, and a big part of its success lies in suspense of not knowing what the character will do next.
At times it’s a reflective and quiet piece of acting that channels human complexities such as regret and self-sabotage. At others, it’s a loud and aggressive performance that slots in perfectly to David Gordon Green’s cracked and peculiar film.
With a soundtrack of heavenly harps, Manglehorn plays out like a strange dream. A multiple car collision that strews watermelons everywhere, as well as a musical interlude in a bank, are just some of the bizarre interruptions in the film’s narrative, which suggest a deeper, more magical subtext.
Like waking from a dream, Manglehorn’s final few moments will leave you dazed, confused and craving further analysis. The fact that each viewer will have a different interpretation of the film’s meaning, is one of its biggest selling points. Some may find the story impenetrable as a result, but I was absorbed by its strangeness and little oddities.
Regardless of its secrets, Manglehorn is relatable through the raw, human emotion that is on display throughout. It’s not one of Pacino’s greatest performances, but is the best I’ve seen in recent years. With lovely cinematography and great direction too, Manglehorn is a fascinating piece of work that’s worth your time, no matter what you may take away from it.
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