Director: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Josh Peck, Melissa Benoist, Nick Offerman
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Running Time: 106 mins
Release date: 29th May 2015
If you were going to cast an actor to play the part of an aging rock star, you’d probably have Al Pacino at the bottom of your list. Well here he is, in all his glory, playing an aging rock star. If you can forgive the singing voice, then you will witness the best thing that Pacino has done in years, in a film that, while not entirely original, is a pure delight.
Danny Collins has been living the rock star life ever since first starting out in 1971. The expensive house, the far-too-young girlfriend, the fast car, the drinks and the drugs. At his surprise birthday party, his manager and best friend, Frank, gives him a present. A letter, written to him back in 1971 by John Lennon. So taken by it, Danny decides to change his life and redeem the demons of his past. Driving to New Jersey and staying in a modest hotel run by manager Mary, Danny embarks on a mission to make amends with the son, Tom, he has never met. Yet its not going to be an easy journey.
Based, very loosely, on a true story about folk singer Steve Tilston, who received a letter from the legendary Beatle, the script by director Dan Fogelman doesn’t really throw up any real surprises. We’ve been down that redemption track before many times; long absent parent trying to win over child they have never seen. Yet what Fogelman has cleverly done is create characters who we really do care about and then filled those parts with actors who can certainly get the job done!
So we watch Danny as he tries to woo (the older for him) Mary, who isn’t going to fall for his charms as quickly as others, the problems that arise within Tom’s family circle, and Danny’s struggle to write a new song, something he hasn’t done for 30 years. It’s all very agreeable and follows the A to Z line without stepping crazily out of line. Yet it works and for the full running time, I was there with these people, enjoying their company and wanting to see what predictable road they would take.
Plus, Fogelman plays a massive trump card. The soundtrack is made up of songs by John Lennon. Not only that but they are not always the most obvious choices. Sure, Imagine is going to be there but the rest are those songs that rarely get heard on the radio. It’s a musical treat.
At the heart of the film are the performances. each and every one fits perfectly. None seems out-of-place or, for that matter, overplay their parts. Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner are well suited as Tom and his wife, Samantha. Their parts could have quite easily been drained out by the lead, yet the scenes in which they share are special and surprisingly touching. Christopher Plummer, as Frank, is, as his name implies, brilliantly frank, with a nice line of sarcastic wit.
Annette Bening has some of the best scenes I’ve seen her in as the chirpy yet unimpressed Mary, while Pacino just shines as Danny. He seems completely at ease with the role, never once heading down that road of Scent Of A Woman ludicrousness. Instead he uses his obvious charm and charisma to win everyone over, including the audience. His scenes with Bening are a delight, as are the ones he shares with all his co-stars. In fact, I wanted to invite them over for tea one day, they are that likeable. He may not convince as a rock star but his performance is the warmest he has been in a very long time.
Danny Collins won’t win any awards for originality and does tiptoe around the edge of sentimentality but it will win you over. It’s oozing with laughs, tears and just plain likability. Feel good movie of the year? So far, it’s head and shoulders above them all.