Using inspiration from a folk singer who received a letter from John Lennon 34 years too late; Dan Fogelman asks what would this do to a fall down hard living rockstar? Al Pacino stars as Danny Collins a prodigy as a teenager, but now a washed up hedonistic mess, hobbling across the stage performing a one hit wonder. When Chime magazine publishes an interview in 1971 professing that he has the writing style of John Lennon, it inspires Collins’ hero to write to him. Though many years late Collins has a, not complete turnaround, but tries to make changes in his life. Namely contacting his estranged son.
Al Pacino is excellent as a man who was in his prime in the 70s and is now somewhat of a joke appearing in sellout shows that are not about exploring the art. No one mention Jack and Jill. Danny Collins since 1971 has been married three times, has addiction problems and gave up after one low-selling album to record studio songs designed to be a hit and make money. You get the kind of rockstar I mean. The moment Al Pacino hits the screen you know where you are. He mumbles and charms his way through the film. Working well with potential dinner date Mary (Anette Bening) and Christopher Plummer who is a lot of fun as manager Frank Grubman.
The movie becomes a predictable schmaltz as he meets his estranged son. Bobby Cannavale as Tom Donnelly is angry at first, but his father worms his way in with money for his granddaughter. Hope Donnelly (Giselle Eisenberg) Danny’s granddaughter is only the beginning of a few heavy handed syrupy sweet themes sprinkled in. Like Danny Collins the film is well meaning and the heart of it is warm. The complications with his long lost family feel contrived and predictable but the film is charming due to a funny script.
Verdict: Helped by a solid cast, charming writing and being variably moving. I’m not a fan of the heavy handed metaphors though. It was a near perfect role for Pacino at this stage in his career.