Magazine article Screen International

Danny Collins

Magazine article Screen International

Danny Collins

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Dan Fogelman. US. 2015. 106mins

An aging, lazy rock star who once had real artistic promise stumbles toward redemption in Danny Collins, which is itself a sad case of wasted potential. Led by a shaggy, inconsistent, overly cutesy performance from Al Pacino, the directorial debut of prolific screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Last Vegas and Crazy, Stupid, Love.) badly overestimates how lovable its main character is, and as a result the audience may find itself reacting much more harshly to him than the other characters do.

For the most part, Danny Collins finds Pacino doling out a sloppy kind of charm that's the equivalent of the dopey puppy that won't stop jumping in your lap.

Opening March 20 in the States, Danny Collins boasts some marketable hooks, most of which will appeal to an older demographic. Featuring prominent John Lennon songs from his post-Beatles period, the movie not only stars Pacino but also Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer and Bobby Cannavale, and the film's tear-jerking, feel-good story about a famous musician reconnecting with his estranged son should play well with undemanding crowds who want a little comfort-food entertainment. Those who enjoyed Last Vegas, And So It Goes and similar movies about the regrets and worries of aging characters could give this comedy-drama a try, but they may prefer waiting for the small screen.

Danny Collins stars Pacino as the titular singing sensation. In the early 1970s, he came onto the music scene with an ambitious album of personal, insightful singer-songwriter material, but when the record failed to become a critical and commercial success, Danny decided to play it safe, transforming himself into a middle-of-the-road interpreter of other people's songs. Now in his late 60s or early 70s, Danny is a wealthy man and a concert staple, singing the same cheesy old hits to an elderly, nostalgic audience. Snorting cocaine and drinking booze, and getting ready to marry a gorgeous nincompoop half his age, Danny tries to forget what a joke his life is.

The film, which was written by Fogelman and loosely based on a true story, gets into gear when Danny's long-time manager Frank (Plummer) presents him with a birthday present. It turns out that Danny's idol, John Lennon, had written Danny a note back in the early '70s, encouraging him to follow his muse and ignore what others say he should do with his career. The note has only recently been retrieved, and Frank gives it to Danny framed. Moved by Lennon's words, Danny wonders what might have happened if he had received the note when he really needed it. Deciding that he's wasted enough of his life, Danny cancels his latest tour so he can focus on writing songs for the first time in decades -- and, he wants to travel from Los Angeles to New Jersey to meet his adult son Tom (Cannavale), who was the product of a one-night stand so long ago.

There are intriguing ideas at the core of Danny Collins: the challenge of being true to oneself, the difficulty of making amends for past sins, the shallowness of the music industry. But what proves irritating throughout the movie is the sense that Fogelman has chosen the easiest, least interesting execution of a rich premise. Phoning in his concerts and happy to rest on past laurels, which weren't that impressive in the first place, Danny for a brief moment remembers what it was like to care deeply about his art. …

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