Saturday, 17 October 2015

Danny Collins

In August 2010, an undelivered letter penned to folk singer Steve Tilston was discovered. The writer of this letter was John Lennon. After reading an interview in a magazine in which Tilston admitted he feared wealth and fame might affect his song-writing and talent, Lennon had written him a letter of support. He even left his home phone number on it, to discuss the matter further. But sadly, the letter was never delivered to Tilston and only discovered almost 40 years later due to a collector acquiring it and verifying its authenticity. Of course, Lennon was murdered in 1980 and Tilston was never able to contact him. How would his life have been different if he had received the fateful letter? This peculiar story went on to inspire Danny Collins.


Out now on DVD, and directed & written by Dan Fogelman, Danny Collins starts off by saying that what follows is ‘kind of based on a true story a little bit’. Because outside of the Lennon letter, the film is otherwise an original tale. Al Pacino plays the eponymous ageing rocker (rather than a folk singer), who despite being on a sell-out tour performing his hits to endless equally aged fans, he is clearly tired of it all. When his manager and best friend Frank (Christopher Plummer) discovers the inspirational and supportive Lennon letter and gives it to him as a gift, Danny decides it’s never too late to change your life and redeem yourself – something he discovers is harder than he thought, as he tries to repair the relationship with his estranged son (Bobby Cannavale), write one last hit song and maybe finally find true love. Yes, the premise is a little unoriginal but despite this, writer/director Fogelman avoids cliché-overload and delivers a film that is funny and touching in equal measure.


The main reason this film works so well is because of the phenomenal talent in the cast. Al Pacino delivers his finest performance in years as the titular Danny, utilising his already-rockstar look to great effect. Danny swaggers around and relishes his fame, yet Pacino still injects a lot of pain and loneliness into the character. This is never more evident than in his scenes with his son played by Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, a perfect casting choice for Pacino’s son – a choice made by Pacino, who only agreed to do the film on the basis Cannavale would be playing that role. Christopher Plummer and Jennifer Garner are great in slightly smaller roles, and up-and-coming Melissa Benoist puts in a sweet performance along-side Josh Peck (of Drake&Josh) as young lovers. But another important part of the film’s heart is Annette Bening, as a kind old hotel manager whom Danny frequently tries to arrange a dinner date with. But this is Pacino’s film through-and-through, and along with Manglehorn, he has reminded us of his true talent. In recent years, he and his contemporary Robert De Niro have starred in a lot of shit films. It seemed their glory days were completely behind them. Although De Niro doesn’t look like he’s going to stop any time soon, it’s very nice to see Pacino back on top form.


So yes, the plot is a little predictable. But this film isn’t trying to be anything too special. Part of me thinks this film was made purely as a vehicle for Pacino to remind us what he can do, and remind us he does. The film has more heart and depth than many films of its type, with a particularly touching ending that will leave you with a big smile on your face and maybe even a tear in your eye. So in conclusion, Danny Collins is far more than you expect. The cast are all fantastic, led by a phenomenal performance from Al Pacino. The script is full of laughs, heart and surprises. The soundtrack is great. It will never be a classic. It won’t win any awards. But for what it is, you can’t really ask for anything more.

Danny Collins hits all the right notes and earns a solid 4/5.

★★★★☆

Sam Love


Danny Collins at CeX


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