A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Manglehorn is a character study that focuses on a lonely old man (played by Al Pacino) who can't seem to get over the one great love of his life. Expect quite a bit of drinking (often to the point of drunkenness); the main character also smokes cigarettes. There's occasional swearing ("s--t" and "goddamn") and some heated, emotional encounters, as well as scenes depicting the aftermath of a car accident -- including people injured and some who may be dead -- and surgery on a cat. A character is solicited by a prostitute after accidentally going into a brothel, and a naked backside is briefly visible in the background. A gun is used to shoot empty bottles.
What's the story?
MANGLEHORN, the film, focuses on Manglehorn the character (Al Pacino), a lonely old man who pines for the lost great love of his life. He also struggles to connect with his son, and when he finally gets up the nerve to ask a friendly bank teller (Holly Hunter) on a date, all he can talk about is the woman who left him years ago. Manglehorn's only real connection is to his cat, who has been acting poorly and probably needs surgery.
Is it any good?
Pacino is a stunner as the title character. His heartache practically oozes off the screen as he tries to connect, via heartfelt letters, to his ex, Clara -- letters that are always returned unopened. Hunter, too, has an amazing scene as a lonely woman who's terribly disappointed to learn that she was probably mistaken about her chances to find love. And Chris Messina, as Manglehorn's estranged son, delivers a knockout monologue about growing up with a difficult father.
The film's problem is that all of these excellent pieces don't connect to create a coherent whole. It's OK to leave some of the backstory unexplained. We don't need to know all the details of how and why Manglehorn and Clara split up or why his son doesn't like him. But we do want the film to make sense. We hear a few stories about Manglehorn as a doting dad, and and we see him as a devoted grandfather, so it's not very clear how he managed to alienate his son. We see the frustration in Messina, but it doesn't totally make sense. Nor do we know why Manglehorn ended up alone, so it's hard to understand why he's become so completely unable to move on with his life, even with a woman who likes him right there in front of him. It's satisfying to see Manglehorn eventually unlock his closed-off heart, but it's unearned. See it for Pacino, but not for the storytelling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Manglehorn depicts relationships. How did Manglehorn end up old and alone, fixated on a long-ago love? How does that prevent him from making connections now? Can you think of other movies about missed relationship opportunities?
How does the movie portray drinking and smoking? Are they glamorized? Are there realistic consequences?
- In theaters: June 19, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2015
- Cast: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina
- Director: David Gordon Green
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content and language, and for accident and surgery images
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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