Danny Collins (2015)    2 Stars


Danny Collins (2015)
Danny Collins (2015)


Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner

Synopsis: An aging rock star decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.




The disparity in quality between Dan Fogelman’s dialogue and the plot he has created for Danny Collins is such that one could be forgiven for believing that each was the work of a different man. While the plot, about the creative reawakening of an ageing pop star, is a warmed over serving of melodramatic soap opera, the dialogue is often smart and funny – and yet also occasionally dependant upon the professionalism of its accomplished cast to carry it through. The title character possesses immense charm, thanks to the commensurate qualities of Al Pacino (Heat, Stand Up Guys), who delivers one of his best performances in years. Admittedly, that’s not a particularly high hurdle, as Pacino’s career has suffered recently from his apparent reluctance to step down into the kind supporting roles that would surely provide a much richer source of material for a 75-year-old, but its nice to see him apparently enjoying his role for once.

The singer Neil Diamond, whose huge potential in the early ’70s gave little clue to the mediocre career that awaited him as a favourite of the blue-rinse brigade, appears to be the basis for the character of Collins, although Collins’ story is inspired by a real-life incident in which folk singer Steve Tilston received a letter from John Lennon thirty-four years after it was written. Tilston never enjoyed the kind of meteoric success enjoyed by Collins, who lives a rock star lifestyle (Lennon’s Working Class Hero ironically plays over shots of Collins returning home to his luxurious mansion), and so Fogelman’s depiction of how receiving the letter at the wrong end of his career influences Collin’s life is where speculative fiction kicks in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it opens Collins’ eyes to just how badly he’s squandered his potential, and of how he’s allowed excessive drinking and drug-taking to blunt his talent. Deciding to make a fresh start, he cancels his tour and retires to a Hilton hotel to begin writing once more. He also decides to make contact with a now-grown son (Bobby Cannavale – 3 A.M.) who is understandably reluctant to allow him into his life.

There are many who would justifiably consider the personal crises of an ageing rock star to be meaningless fluff unworthy of their time, but thankfully Collins’ capacity for self-pity is kept to a minimum, due largely to Annette Bening’s (American Beauty) grounded hotel receptionist, who provides the moral centre that Collins’ well-meaning friend and manager (Christopher Plummer – Beginners, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is unable to supply. Although Collins’ attempt to reconnect with his son forms the central thread of the plot, it’s the scenes which Pacino shares with fellow old-hands Bening and Plummer when the film is at its best. Pacino and Bening in particular generate a nice chemistry which makes their scenes together a pleasure to watch, but while Danny Collins (both the film and the man) is strong on charm, it too often ignores reality for the sake of plot convenience and, despite the inevitable setbacks, the movie’s end leaves us feeling that Collins has had something of an easy ride.

(Reviewed 16th October 2015)

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