Solidly delivering laughs in equal measure with more grounded thoughts on the topic of redemption, this comedy drama is great in taking into account; lessons of life, the big what if of how things may have been and Pacino with a thick tan.
A musical star now in his olden years without any original material recieves a possible life changing present on his birthday. Danny Collins (Al Pacino) cannot believe a letter penned by John Lennon was sent to him and now he starts trying to redo mistakes of his life, including his music and long lost son Tom (Bobby Cannavale).
This is a heartfelt movie more often than I expected, I knew the plot basis and guessed at it being a comedy, which it is with great success but it is rounded off with increased sentiment and emotion of rediscovery in a new chapter of someone’s life. The ageing figure is nothing fresh but this film gives it more heart and really gets you on Danny’s side that you will him to make these changes but still not lose who he is inside. It’s a clear note that this film packs a punch of family matters lessons of life, the central father-son bond is fraught but believable and it goes an obvious but nonetheless stirring way.
Dan Fogelman takes on directorial and scripting duties and succeeds in both departments. Considering this was his directing debut, Fogelman has a lot to be proud of. It’s a brilliant film with shine in all the right places and grounded character problems in between. The journey of the central mister is great, almost like a bio-pic of this Collins guy but with enough gloss that you know it isn’t. It’s a movie with heartfelt themes coursing through the veins, it may be leaning towards going down that road too much but I can forgive it for the fun it musters up too.
The script based on a real account of a folk singer named Steve Tilston getting the same positive type of letter from Lennon and Yoko Ono is fascinating and it really gets you thinking about what you yourself may have done differently if knowing something new. It’s obviously quite an important subject matter of how moments could have differed but on the flip side it shows how not to overthink things, change what you can now when your eyes are opened but don’t live in the past. Danny Collins is a flawed and broken man but his heart is present as Frank says to Tom.
The strongest aspect of this film was the appropriate balance between Danny’s new fixation in Hilton hotel manager Mary. The writing or perhaps improv between Pacino and Bening is spectacular. It’s involving patter that brings a genuine smile to the face. There’s smart one liners and funny back and forth material that gives depth and sparkle to this possible relationship.
The music, mostly songs by Lennon are apt for the certain scenes but ones actually concerning Collins as a movie character are a journey too. His style in the opening concert is rock and roll but dated like Daniel O’Donnell/Barry Manilow cheese suitable for the golden girls seen in the front row. By the time he’s changing his ways and living out of a hotel room, his first new song tinkling on the piano is gentle, poetic and beautiful. It also serves as a great musical cinematic tool of gripping the audience in a decision needed to be made by Collins.
Al Pacino is in fine form as the prominent figure, he moves about with hammy actions but has a cheeky grin and investing flirty manner that sucks you in. He can deliver those necessary flecks of worry and emotion too though, so it is a fantastic performance, one that is needed for Pacino’s run of latest films. Annette Bening soars as the fun and quick-witted partner of Pacino’s flirting. She also has the wonder of being a love interest without giving too much away and being easy to get. Jennifer Garner is the soft yet cool pregnant daughter in law and has sharp moments when first meeting Danny. Bobby Cannavale brings back ‘Boardwalk Empire’ levels of acting talent to his role as unsure Tom. The way he wants to do right but has a devastating secret makes for a quite powerful take on the distance he wants to give to his selfish father.
A fine watch with a winning set of performances. It’s a film that does light hearted fun well and then goes on a turn to serious redemption factors that can become heavy handed but still hold you in the palm of its hand like a Baby Doll singing Danny Collins.