Just like starting over. Danny Collins is a film about an aging rocker who is strongly influenced by John Lennon. This dramedy is a predictable and formulaic film but it is redeemed by some great performances and its pleasant foray into the world of music.
The film marks the directorial debut of Crazy, Stupid, Love writer, Dan Fogelman. It is very loosely based on a story involving a British folk singer named Steve Tilston. The musician gave an interview in 1971 and made some disparaging comments about fame affecting one’s song writing ability. John Lennon took exception to this and sent the artist a letter but Tilston did not get to see this until 2005.
In Danny Collins, Al Pacino does an excellent job playing the titular, larger-than-life character who is standing in for Tilston. Collins was an aspiring singer-songwriter who had little success with his own material and instead turned to performing hackneyed songs by other people. He sold out in a big way but also managed to hit the big time and play large-scale arena shows.
It was an empty, vacuous existence of sex, drugs, trophy wives and rock ‘n’ roll. But Collins only really wakes up to this after his long-suffering manager (the wonderful, Christopher Plummer) delivers a letter that John Lennon had sent to Collins in 1971 advising the young man to keep it real and stay true to his music. Collins is rightly upset and ponders what might have been if he had received the note earlier. This results in a serious bout of soul-searching.
This journey of self-discovery sees Collins holed up in a Hilton hotel trading cheeky barbs with the manager (Annette Bening) and attempting to build a relationship with his estranged son, Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale) who was the product of a one-night stand between Collins and a groupie. Life is messy and Donnelly has a heavily pregnant wife (Jennifer Garner) and a daughter with ADHD (Giselle Eisenberg).
Al Pacino cannot sing to save his life and at times Danny Collins is awfully cheesy and sugary. But the film does boast an excellent soundtrack of John Lennon solo songs (and Collins’ breakout “hit” actually sounds like a third-rate version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”). There are some great moments showing the power of second chances and redemption. But there is also a big disappointment in the special features. They are simply a single image gallery of mock-up record sleeves by “Collins”.
Danny Collins is a film full of stereotypes and clichés but it still manages to be quite pleasant and enjoyable. At the end of the day it has a good heart and the performances are top-notch. The film has an excellent premise and its execution is well-meaning so you can have a fun enough time without sitting there imaging what might have been.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Special Features Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)
Danny Collins is now available on DVD and Blu-ray through Roadshow Entertainment.