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May 29, 2015
Al Pacino isn’t mostly known for comedic roles, but in this dramedy his zest for life carries the film, charming everyone; audience included. Inspired by the true story of musician Steve Tilston who received a letter from John Lennon several decades after he was meant to receive it; the movie focuses on the implications of receiving touching words from a long dead hero to the fictional Danny Collins (Pacino). As an aging rock star performing gigs for his elderly audiences, the letter reminds him to focus on what’s really important.
Danny Collins is joined by his friend and manager Frank (Christopher Plummer) on his birthday, joking about the time they’ve spent together – drugs and alcohol included – and Danny’s astonishingly young and attractive fiancé. “I should get a pre-nup right?” asks Danny eliciting much laughter from the audience, as this film satirises the rock star lifestyle of the aging men of the 70s and their struggle to remain relevant. Frank presents him with the letter he’s found and Danny decides to go back to his passion of music and to reunite with his estranged son.
Danny’s attempts to meet his son Tom falls mostly on deaf ears with Bobby Cannavale doing a terrific job of being the annoyed son of a rockstar, but also his resolve to be a better father makes his performance more believable. He’s joined by Jennifer Garner as his wife, but the family member who practically steals the whole movie is Giselle Eisenberg as their daughter Hope. She is adorable and her ADHD allows her to say what’s on her mind, leading to hilarious revelations.
Danny is surprised to find he has a grand-daughter but the two hit it off, while he tries to re-connect with the rest of the family and reconcile the time he’s spent away. There is also a smouldering romance with hotel manager Mary (Annette Bening), who in some ways works as his muse for his new album. The relationship is believable, as is Danny’s sudden reconnection with people as opposed to his previous materialistic, hedonistic life.
Constantly wondering what would’ve happened to him, had he received the letter when he was supposed to, imagining a better more fulfilling life, the weight of ‘what if?’ bears on the plot, gradually turning the film from a comedy into a drama, eventually losing its lighter side by the end, but the drama is where the film works best and gets more interesting.
I walked into Danny Collins expecting another film about wacky out-of-control rock stars, but got a film that was surprisingly deeper than that. The plot is complemented by the funny and well-rounded cast, believable relationships and chemistry; while I would’ve liked for its funnier side to continue all the way through, I’m not disappointed with the ending. A bitter-sweet ‘what-if’ tale that will open your eyes to the importance of taking chances.
Danny Collins is released in UK cinemas on May 29th