Thursday, March 19, 2015

“Danny Collins”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening held by The New York Times Film Club of the drama, “Danny Collins”, starring Al Pacino. 


When a successful songwriter receives a letter written to him 40 years ago by John Lennon, will it motivate him to change his ways or will he remain his old shallow self?


For the past four decades, Danny Collins (Pacino) has enjoyed an exalted career as a singer who writes his own songs.  True to the job description, he’s lived his life in an extravagant, self-indulgent manner, denying himself nothing, especially when it comes to women, drugs and alcohol.  On his birthday, his live-in fiancée throws him a birthday party, where his manager (Christopher Plummer) bestows upon him the ultimate gift:  a letter written to Danny some 40 years ago that never reached him – the only thing more amazing about it is the fact that it was from the late John Lennon, who wrote the then-young songwriter words of encouragement. 

Seeing this as a sign to take stock of his life, Danny decides to right his biggest wrong by attempting to restore the relationship between himself and his estranged son, Tom (Bobby Cannavale).  Upon arrival at Tom’s modest home in New Jersey, Danny finds himself immediately rebuffed by his pregnant daughter-in-law Samantha (Jennifer Garner); she makes it abundantly clear to him that Tom won’t be too pleased to learn of his visit.  When Tom finds Danny in his house, he doesn’t mince words; Tom lets Danny know that he’s not welcome in his life or his house. 

When Danny finds out about the learning disorder his six year old granddaughter has, he uses this as an opportunity to prove his sincerity to Tom and Samantha; pulling a few strings and committing to spend his own money, he gets the little girl into a special school that will be certain to change her life for the better.  But just when things look to be turning around, Tom reveals to Danny a tragic secret that may alter everyone’s plans.  Will Danny be able to repair the relationship with the family he never knew or will fate ultimately intervene before it’s possible? 


If you look up the word “preposterous” in the dictionary, you’ll likely find a picture for the movie poster of “Danny Collins”.  To say that there are holes in the story would not only be an understatement, it would be akin to beating a man when he’s down.  Clearly, this was an opportunity for Pacino to do his mugging and overacting, which gave way for the remainder of the cast to jump on board.  The only truly good performance in “Danny Collins” is that of Bobby Cannavale, who plays the role of Tom, Danny’s son.  There are also corny subplots about a romance between members of the hotel staff and Danny’s cheating fiancée that completely misfire. 

On its surface, “Danny Collins” is supposed to be a story about redemption:  late in his life, the prodigal father tries to own up to the responsibilities he’s shirked for decades in favor of living the glorious life of a widely-adored (and ridiculously wealthy) rock star.  Unfortunately, the path it takes to tell that story is where it goes awry; there are things just a little too difficult to buy into, such as the fact that when Danny is presented with the letter from Lennon, he never once questions what happened that resulted in him never receiving it in the first place.   

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with the movie’s writer/director Dan Fogelman.  Fogelman is best known for his screenplays, perhaps most notably “Crazy, Stupid, Love”; with “Danny Collins”, this is his first time as a director.  After “Crazy, Stupid, Love”, Fogelman said he was looking to get ideas for his next screenplay, but wasn’t particularly inspired by anything.  As a result, he spent most of his time surfing the Web.  It was at this point he found an article about a songwriter who was destined for success and in fact had been sent a glowing letter by none other than John Lennon himself; he wound up turning his back on fame and success for a much simpler life.  Fogelman wondered what this man’s life might’ve been like had he pursued his songwriting career and lost his soul in the process; thus, both the character and story of “Danny Collins” was born.     

Danny Collins (2015) on IMDb

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