Directed by David Gordon Green
Opens June 19
Three times in Manglehorn, supporting characters deliver monologues about the titular small-town Texas locksmith: Though our aging protagonist is a shuffling sad-sack, they all remember a fierce, mercurial, patriarch, a man with “magic” in him, down to his fingertips. Looking at Manglehorn now—like Elliott Gould’s Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, he can’t even convince his cat to eat, implore as he might—the only way these descriptions seem creditable is as fellow actors expressing their awe of the man who plays him, Al Pacino. But though Pacino does work magic here, it’s magic of a subtler, stranger kind.
What in holy hell happened to Barry Levinson is not quite the ongoing heartbreak of what the ever-loving fuck happened to Rob Reiner, but it does provide consistent puzzlement, especially when taken together. The two filmmakers had enviable 1980s runs before hitting walls in the early 90s with boondoggles. Levinson’s Toys actually beat out Reiner’s North, coming out simultaneously with Reiner’s almost-last hurrah of A Few Good Men, but Levinson actually kicked around big Hollywood projects for longer, managing some high-profile if underwhelming dramas like Disclosure and Sleepers and even a mini-resurgence with the smaller Wag the Dog and Liberty Heights before rolling into a cul-de-sac of movies that seemed like they should have been better than they were; What Just Happened indeed. (Reiner, it should be said, took a worse dive, seeming almost constitutionally incapable of making a good movie for almost twenty years now.)
Levinson went small again with The Bay, a respectable Maryland-set found-footage horror picture, and goes smaller still with this weekend’s The Humbling, shot mostly around his Connecticut home, with a star turn from Al Pacino and source material from Philip Roth intended to provide the special effects. Yet somehow he’s come up with one of his worst movies ever, one that rambles and rambles and rambles like its lead character, an actor who abruptly quits a play and goes into recluse mode, only to connect with the nearby and supposedly lesbian daughter (Greta Gerwig) of family friends, and also start looking for acting work again because he needs money (the movie is stupidly unclear about the specifics of his financial situation, apparently precarious enough for a few shopping trips to bring him to the brink of desperation).