Friday, April 10

REVIEW: Danny Collins

Directed by Dan Fogelman
2015 Comedy-Drama
1 hour 46 minutes
From Bleecker Street Media

Al Pacino
Annette Bening
Jennifer Garner
Bobby Cannavale
Christopher Plummer

I told a friend this morning that I was going to a 10:30 a.m. showing and I wasn't sure that it wasn't just a tad too early to listen to Al yell.  I wouldn't be able to have enough coffee and my nerves could be all frayed after the decibel onslaught.  But much to my surprise, Al didn't yell at all.  Michael Corleone stay home.  Hoo-hah... hoo-hah.

Actually, I wasn't sure until last night that I was going to go see it.  You see, I really don't like Al's yelling.  Somehow I imagine he does that in real life a fair amount (many apologies, Al, if I'm mistaken) and I've usually wanted him to give it a rest before the cameras.  Well, um, ok, give me a rest.  I want to sometimes remind him this isn't the stage and he doesn't need to project to the highest row in the balcony.  Oh damn.  Ok, I don't want to backtrack and maybe I'm feeling a little low now, so alrighty, an occasional yell is ok if, if, if it's really called for.

So, let me repeat, Al didn't yell at all... not even that once or twice that I may throw his way.  I have never ever thought that Pacino was anything less than a brilliant actor, a rare craftsman, a genius in his field, at the top of the talent heap.  But he has lost his way and if that's more than you can bear, then let's agree that he has made a lot of crappy movies for a long time now and to me seems to be playing shadings of the same character in most of them.

So I exhale heartily when I say thank goodness he had the sense to say yes to Danny Collins.  Da man is baaack.  This movie was a treat.  Were it not for a bit of repetition in its deployment of plot points, I might have given it four stars.  But for me, three is still a high compliment.

Danny is a wealthy singer who is just coming to grips with the fact that his career has seen more luster than it shows now.  His manager (Plummer) wants him to keep up the pace but Danny is thinking otherwise.  His manager gives him something that changes the course of his life.  It is an encouraging letter that John Lennon wrote to him at the beginning of Danny's career but was never delivered.  As Danny reflects on what might have been, had he received the letter at the time, he decides to change his life around.  He wants to give up the booze and the drugs, the waste, the craziness.  He wants to hit the reset button.

Foremost in his mind is meeting and having a relationship with the grown son he has never met, the result of a one-night stand with a fan.  To do so, he travels to New Jersey to meet him (Cannavale)and his wife (Garner) and daughter.  They do not know he is coming.

Once he arrives in The Garden State, he settles in for an extended stay and enjoys a flirtation with the hotel manager (Bening).  What romance there is comes in this plotline along with a fair amount of light humor.  Both actors do a lot of laughing in their scenes together... another winning aspect of this Pacino portrayal.  There is a minor subplot involving two other hotel employees that was a bit of a waste of time.

The meeting of father and son initially doesn't go well but it improves haltingly.  Their relationship is at the heart of the film, of course, and the movie really takes on a sparkle when we are treated to their scenes together. 

It is a heartfelt screenplay and while sentimental at all the right times, it is never mushy.  The acting is faultless.  Pacino's Danny is thoughtful or at least trying his damnedest to be and downright tender with his new family.  Pacino does a lot of listening in this role, another winsome move. 

Right with him all the way is Cannavale.  I haven't seen him since Blue Jasmine and I'd like to see him a lot more.  He gives all the right nuances as a son who is very guarded.  It is through this character and the terrible secret he is carrying that propels the story to its conclusion.

And speaking of someone who is a master craftsman, we have Plummer whom we know we can count on.  I like that.  His manager role is one of trusted confidante, motivator, finance manager, longtime friend... and ok, he'd like to keep earning some bucks while he can.  In that spirit, too, unlike most actors, Plummer's visibility seems to be greater now that he's older than when he was trying to lose the whistle of Captain von Trapp.  He and Pacino haven't worked together since The Insider (1999) when they played the men from 60 Minutes involved in the big tobacco exposé.  Their scenes together are perfection.

Bening and Garner give it all they have and were quite enjoyable but their roles were not as well-defined as the men's roles.  As a reminder, this cast was faultless.

While we're dishing out the compliments, here's one for director Fogelman.  And for writer Fogelman, too.  He wrote Crazy, Stupid, Love, which you know you liked if you saw it, and he wrote this one, too.  The thing is... this is his first time at directing one for the big screen.  I don't usually find all that much to admire from newbies but he has brought us this film with great care.

So there you are.  You think maybe they don't make such good movies anymore?  You think it needs a car crash, some violence, a little CGI?  All this has is a few F-bombs, for those of you who allow that to get under your skin.  Otherwise, you're good to go.  So go.

A Good 60s Film


  1. am so glad to read your review. This is a movie I've wanted to see but was somewhat hesitant about: Al Pacino as a rock star? He's a favorite actor and I do like it when he does comedy. I hope this is a movie that plays at my local cineplex.....

  2. I hope it plays in your local theater, too, and that you'll see it. I guarantee a thumbs up from you.