Review: Danny Collins
In 1971 a young folk singer named Steve Tilston was being interview by a music magazine. During this interview the young musician admitted that he was afraid that if he became a wealthy and well know singer/song writer then that would negatively affect his music. As it turned out John Lennon read this interview and decided to write a letter to the young musician. Lennon tells him that he does not need to fear riches and fame. But, due to series of missteps Steve does not receive this letter for 35 years. So, what would you, as an artist, have done differently with your career if you had received this letter when you should have?
This is the true premise that the fictional Danny Collins is based upon.
Al Pacino is Danny and he is rich and famous and still selling our concerts. He has a huge estate, a twenty-something fiancé, all the drugs and alcohol he wants. But he is depressed. The aging rock star has spent the last 40 years living large off his one hit and his soul has suffered for it (“I’m a court jester with a microphone.)”
Then when he is at his lowest, his birthday, Frank his manager (Christopher Plummer) gives him a gift that changes his life. Frank has tracked down the letter written to Danny from John Lennon. In the letter Lennon tells him that “Being rich and famous doesn’t corrupt your art, only you can do that.”
The world weary Danny is now energized and starts to make changes. He moves out of his house (his fiancé was cheating on him anyway), cancels his tour and moves to a Hilton in New Jersey. He starts to write music again. And why New Jersey? That is where the son he has never met (from a drug addled, after concert fling) lives.
The movie is a very fun and sad look at what second chances can mean to a person and the people around them. And we get to see Al Pacino in one of his best roles in years. As one of the best actors of his generation, Pacino is always good, and many times great. But instead of a highly charged, if not actually enraged character (think Devil’s Advocate or Scarface) launching at us from the screen, we see a extremely charming, endearing, but flawed Danny smoothly, determinedly wending his way into our hearts.
Danny is going to make up for lost time, writing music again, reconnecting to a family he never knew and charming everyone around him. In fact my favorite scenes are with the hotel manager, Mary (Annette Bening). He is trying his best to charm this smart, attractive, divorced woman. But she is almost too smart for him. The give and take between them is smart, mildly suggestive and loads of fun to watch(“Hey, we’re getting our patter back.)” These dialogs are also a subtle way to let us slowly learn what Danny is going though.
The rest of the cast is wonderful as well. Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner are the son and daughter in-law who Danny is trying to make amend to. She is pregnant and they have a daughter who is hyper active and needs the kind of help that really cannot afford. But Danny can. And as he says himself, “I’m still going to Hell because money won’t buy redemption”. Christopher Plummer is perfect as the no nonsense manage (“this is the second time I’ve been to New Jersey in 6 months and I am not happy”) and dear friend to Danny (“He really has a good heart. But it’s just usually up his own ass”).
This movie is not being promoted heavily so you, like Danny, have a second chance, to get to this movie before everyone else discovers this Al Pacino gem.