Ryan Pollard reviews writer-director Dan Fogelman’s comedy-drama Danny Collins starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening and Jennifer Garner…
Danny Collins is the story of a washed-up musician (Al Pacino), who belatedly receives a career-changing letter from John Lennon prompting a rites of passage journey as he tries to get his life back on track. In doing so, he begins writing new songs in his hotel, run by a no-nonsense manager (Annette Bening), and does his best to reconcile his relationship with an estranged son (Bobby Cannavale), who has a family of his own, yet is suffering from a possible infection of leukaemia.
Way in the background of all this, there is in fact a true story in which John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote a letter to the English folk singer Steve Tilston in 1971, which was unknown to him for 34 years. That element is in, yet the rest is a very fanciful confection, but despite this, the film manages to work its charm. It’s still disposable, fantastical, flimsy and a little lightweight, but there is plenty to enjoy. Writer/director Dan Fogelman has decided to make it more about the personal crisis that Danny’s going through, rather than attempting to create a bigger picture that reflects the music industry.
This allows Al Pacino to go for it, and he plays the character as a brilliant concoction of flamboyance, vanity and cockiness, yet he’s also really insecure and vulnerable as well. Pacino is clearly having a whale of a time with the role, as is everyone else with brilliantly charming supporting performances from Christopher Plummer and Annette Bening. The plot isn’t the most original, but the real joy of the film is watching these A-list actors being allowed to show and demonstrate why they are brilliant at what they do and why they are so well respected.
Danny Collins is not the most original film you’ll have ever seen and it is somewhat disposable, but it still has enough bite in it to make the whole experience enjoyable, fun and actually sweet, which is something unexpected. Plus, it reminds you why Al Pacino is one of the great acting legends out there and is the main reason the film is worth checking out.