"Dear Danny Collins, stay true to yourself, stay true to your music. My phone number is below, we can discuss this."
Sometimes you think an actor has given everything that they can, their career best performances are behind them and they out to take the Connery or Nicholson route (not that either of those two were necessarily incapable of bringing another great performances). But hang on a moment, before you can even say Lifetime Achievement award here comes an event like Danny Collins for an actor like Mr Al Pacino.
A cheesy and aged rock musician (Pacino) suddenly receives a letter from none other than John Lennon that was written 43 years ago and has an epiphany. He calls off his tour, quits his lavish lifestyle in an effort to rediscover his musical heart and bind with a son he’s never met.
As I was saying, now Pacino comes back singing. Yes you heard correctly, or rather, read correctly. We all know he can shout, in fact it’s what he’s associated with as an acting technique now (‘Attaca’ and ‘Say hello to my little friend’). But for this performance he’s reminded us all just how talented he was and still is by toning the charisma and power to come out with some genuinely empathetic moments of purity. If anything Pacino almost replicates Danny Collins’ journey as, though he is incredibly famous and respected but it may be safe to question his true talent today. But by doing this film he certainly reminds us of his entertainment and dramatic flair.
The cast Al has to help him out is also exceptional, and they all deliver what’s expected and then some. Annette Bening, Jenifer Garner and Christopher Plummer are all hitting their marks, from Plummer as the long-time manager and best friend who traverses the turbulence of his client with dry wit and one liners, to the manager of Danny’s unassertive hotel retreat who exudes kindness and humour. Their chemistry and interaction harkens back to the best comedies of yesterday.
There’s a wonderful determination behind the film as well, as if it wants to succeed, it wants to be good, it wants you to love it, just like its titular character. There’s an urge to regain anything that might have been lost in previous outings and it’s helped by the fact that it is genuinely funny and heartfelt. Perhaps it resorts to sentimentality once or twice but you know what, to hell with picking on things for being sentimental (at east in this case) because the film is inherently sentimental and relishes in it as well as the fact that it really does evoke some deep emotions for anyone who has a strong and genuine connection with music and artistic integrity.
The sharp and slick script by Dan Fogleman (also director) has allowed this talented cast to sink their teeth into it and make sure that they can have fun with it as well. There’s freedom to move that supplies a playful and light hearted nature, but not so much that it feels chaotic. But perhaps the biggest asset is teaming Pacino with his estranged son played by Bobby Cannavale as the true drama lies here. His resentful nature and Pacino’s need to be forgiven play host to a range of tones from calamity, entertainment and sensitivity.
It may be predictable for the most part, but definitely not the ending. I can’t say anymore but hold onto your emotions as they will be shaken up one more time, right up until a final shot that may require a shoulder to lean on.
And then there’s the soundtrack, wow. A wonderful compilation of John Lennon is used to pull on your heartstrings even when there’s not as much for the film itself to do on its own.
Humorous, heartfelt, a reminder of why we love Al Pacino and why we love John Lennon.