Sunday, March 15, 2015

SXSW 2015: Manglehorn and Fresno

In David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Al Pacino turns in his third performance of the last year as a man in the grips of a post-midlife crisis. This time he's Angelo Manglehorn, a locksmith whose obsession with a lost love is preventing him from fully inhabiting his own life. Dreamily kind for the most part, but given to fits of furniture-hurling rage and truth-telling so blunt it borders on sadism, Manglehorn drifts through his own life, observing the often quirky people around him as if from a great, sad distance. In one emblematic scene, he happens upon a multiple-car pileup and strides down the line of automobiles as the slow-motion, blurred sound, and the bright red watermelon guts strewn over the cars (one of the vehicles was carrying a load of melons) give the whole thing a surrealistic vibe. His house looks depressed too: dimly lit and all dark, metallic colors, even the wood paneling tinted a faint, sickly green. His only hope of connection with another living being, aside from his beloved cat, appears to be Dawn (Holly Hunter), a demure bank teller with whom he plays out a painfully awkward, lurching courtship.

Manglehorn is too talky by half, especially when two or even three scenes are superimposed on one another, their soundtracks running simultaneously to create a largely incomprehensible wall of sound. The loosely structured, episodic narrative truncates the story of the man's estranged son, Jacob (Chris Messina), and gives too much screen time to a petty operator played by Harmony Korine, who brings little more to the part than a jittery, motor-mouth energy, and the touches of magic realism feel out of place. But Pacino and Hunter's sheer talent and charisma cut through much of the fog as they radiate a powerful sense of frustration and longing, Pacino in basset-hound hangdog mode for most of the film as Hunter movingly plays against type.

Brightly lit and cheerfully acted, Jamie Babbit's Fresno pushes its not-so-funny premise almost to the breaking point, sacrificing character development on the altar of comedy along the way. Read the rest on The House Next Door

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