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Danny Collins
Genre Comedy
 
Review:

Danny Collins stars Al Pacino in the titular role as an aging rock star, who decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year old letter written to him by John Lennon. The film is written and directed by Dan Fogelman, best known as the screenwriter behind Last Vegas, The Guilt Trip and Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Fogelman knows how to get a laugh, pull a heart string and entertain an audience. His latest film proves he can do that from the director's chair, creating a number of parallels for Al Pacino to bring us one of his better performances in the last few years as Danny Collins.

Pacino plays a Tom Jones type singer, whose "Babydoll" track has become a lynchpin legacy, propelling him to stardom and sustaining his decades long career. It's like he was sold on the idea based on Michael Douglas reinvigorating his acting career with a Golden Globe for his take on Liberace in Behind the Candelabra.

He's supported by a strong cast including: Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale. Bening takes on a Diane Keaton type role as an age appropriate love interest, Plummer is the pick of the supporting cast as the long-time manager, Garner serves up a devoted mom and Cannavale adds a layer of meloncholy as an overshadowed and disgruntled working class hero.

While the bittersweet tones tilt in favour of comedy over drama, Pacino carries the film with a charming and sincere performance as the man with many regrets trying to find some late-in-the-game forgiveness. While we go with it, his quest to rewind and "keep it real" does come across as self-serving given his hedonistic track record.

Danny Collins hinges on a life-changing letter from John Lennon. While this catalyst does provide a conceptual backbone and necessitate a John Lennon soundtrack, it also serves to undermine the film and divide audiences as we try to get to grips with his sudden conversion to Lennonism.

We believe he wants to make right with the world, but how superficial do you have to be in order for one long lost letter from a quasi-spiritual leader to awaken you from decades of living it up and not giving a damn? To make matters worse, Lennon's soulful music is too good for Danny Collins, leaving a gaping chasm between the film's sitcom reality and the music's timeless quality.

For the most part, Pacino manages to schmooze over the kinks playing a variation of his own career with enough star quality and finesse to sell the concept. We're convinced he's been there and done that based on a reasonable opening performance and his own standing as a screen legend.

Unfortunately, his performance doesn't really make up for the celebrity bus-load of schmaltz surrounding his "patter" with a hotel manager, reinvigorating his music career with a piano and trying to win over his estranged family with money and influence. The interactions are sweet and good-natured, but come across as somewhat cheesy and affected instead of transformative.

Danny Collins is pretty harmless and affable stuff, peppering us with product placements and the odd chuckle surrounding his age, washed out fame and contrasts between his new and old life. The comedy drama aims at the Baby Boomers, throwing Pacino and Lennon nostalgia into a sentimental movie about making peace with your self before shuffling off.

The bottom line: Contrived


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