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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Danny Collins | Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Christopher Plummer, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD

 

Danny Collins

Forget for a minute that he can't sing. That doesn't detract from legendary, Oscar winning actor Al Pacino's winning portrayal of an aging 1970's rock star.   As Danny Collins, 74 year old Pacino shows another side that audiences haven't seen and he manages to pull it off.  In a televised interview, Pacino described his character as a cross between Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart, although audiences are likely to see more of a similarity to Neil Diamond, especially since Collin's biggest hit, Hey Baby Doll, sounds an awful lot like Diamond's Sweet Caroline.

The opening credits says, "The following is based on a kind of true story a little bit."  That “little bit”  refers to a factual event in which a British folk singer discovered a 40 year old letter written to him from John Lennon.  Inspired by that premise, screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love, Last Vegas, The Guilt Trip) in his directing debut, uses his imagination and expands on that little known tidbit of history to create a story about how one simple act from a person can trigger another person to change their life.

Although he hasn't had a hit song in decades, Danny continues to tour, performing in front of grey haired baby boomer fans whose tickets to his concerts help pay for his lavish lifestyle, that include a Beverly Hills mansion, a bimbo fiancee (Katarina Cas) that is young enough to be his daughter, and his expensive cocaine habit.

Things soon change for Danny, who is on a self destructive path, when he is forced to reassess his life and has an epiphany after his long time manager and best friend, Frank (Christopher Plummer), hands him a surprise birthday present in the form of a letter written to his much younger self in 1971 from John Lennon that he never received.  Danny is floored by Lennon's advice back then to “stay true to yourself and your music” and wonders about the what would have happened if he listened to his idol.

Better late than never, Danny decides to cancel his tour, drop his fiancee, fly to New Jersey, and check into a Hilton Hotel not too far from Hillsdale, where Tom (Bobby Cannavale), the adult, construction worker son that he has never met, lives with his pregnant wife, Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and hyperactive daughter, Hope (Gabrielle Eisenberg) with special needs.

As the product of Danny's one night stand with a groupie, Tom was raised by his single mother who has since died of cancer, and he wants nothing to do with his long absent father, even though Danny is hoping to make amends and become a part of his son's life.

Meanwhile back at the hotel, Danny forms a flirtatious relationship with Mary Sinclair (Annette Benning) the attractive hotel manager, who becomes his muse as he attempts to get his creative juices flowing and write a new song on the baby grand piano he has installed in his suite. In between working on his personal issues, Danny manages to play matchmaker between the sweet and pretty front desk clerk (Melissa Benoist) and the hotel's valet (Josh Peck).

As a masterful blend of comedy and melodrama, Danny Collins will make you laugh as well as tear up as it tugs on your heartstrings. In spite of its somewhat predictable plotting, conflicts and complications, the material is elevated by Pacino's endearing performance and a superb supporting cast.

At its core, Danny Collins, which also features a great music soundtrack including John Lennon's  Imagine, Working Class Hero, Beautiful Boy and Instant Karma, is an effective story about self discovery and seeking redemption.  Like the titled character, the unfolding narrative is engaging and hard to resist.

 

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