MUCH as he did with Nicholas Cage in last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival offering Joe, director David Gordon Green’s latest film, Manglehorn, takes another superstar in Al Pacino and drops him into a world stripped free of the mainstream gloss that more commonly surrounds him.
Star rating: ***
Welcome to Me
Star rating: ***
Cast as a blue-collar locksmith mourning the lost love of his life, Pacino may not get the kind of livewire plot that Cage enjoyed, but he is forced to dig a little deeper than recent outings like Danny Collins by having to rely on more than legacy-riffing charisma to create his performance. The eponymous Manglehorn is one of those bottom-rung guys with a big personality who nevertheless hasn’t amounted to much in his life. Spending his days trudging along, he eeks out a living unlocking cars, doors and fire-damaged safes for his in-a-jam customers, but can’t – or won’t – unlock the prison of regret he’s constructed for himself. Trapped in this somewhat solipsistic state – in one marvelously surreal sequence Green has him wander past a multiple car pile-up, oblivious to its horrifying chaos – he’s unable to properly connect with his grown-up son or the bank teller (Holly Hunter) with whom he’s struck up a flirtatious relationship. Instead he reserves all his affection and attention for his sick cat, who’s swallowed a key and needs an expensive operation. If the symbolism here feels a bit too on the nose, Green compensates by giving Pacino the space to create a recognisably flawed human being whose foibles he captures in same exacting and painfully forensic detail he uses to depict the surgery Manglehorn’s pet undergoes.
There’s more bizarrely detailed pet surgery in Welcome to Me, another entertainingly off-beat showcase for Kristen Wiig’s comedic and dramatic skills that boasts as it knuckle-gnawing comic centerpiece Wiig’s character neutering dogs on live TV. She plays Alice Kleig, a delusional television-obsessed oddball who funds her own Oprah-style reality talkshow in tribute to herself after going off her meds following a multi-million-dollar lottery win. Her character’s unpredictability – which leads to moments like the aforementioned televised dog spaying – is what makes Welcome to Me more interesting than its Anchor Man meets The Truman Show premise suggests, particularly as Wiig once again demonstrates a remarkable ability to completely disappear into an egocentric character, finding humour and tenderness in a clearly damaged soul.