Danny Collins, 2015.
Written and Directed by Dan Fogelman.
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer.
An ageing rocker comes to the realisation that his life perhaps hasn’t gone as it should have after he reads a letter written to him by John Lennon, sent decades earlier but not received until now.
Movies about performers invariably draw comparisons with the actors actually portraying the performer. At first glance it would be easy to guess Danny Collins, a film about the titular hero (played by Pacino) going through a crisis, would fit into that category. However, any similarities to those actors, Pacino or otherwise, is purely coincidental. It would be easy to say Pacino is linked to Danny Collins in the way both are charismatic performers, both ageing and famous and both perhaps trying to carry on doing what they’re doing in an ever-changing world. These comparisons, and others, are ones the film is seemingly uninterested in making.
The film does, however, bare a similarity to its main character in that it at times coasts by purely fuelled by charisma, lacking true artistic merit or creative flare that would make it stand out from the crowd. Yes, we all recognise Danny Collins, but that doesn’t mean the creative output is worth time and money if something better is on offer.
The script uses simple, tried-and-tested tricks to keep audience interest. Despite the actors carrying the story as much as they can, the film can’t seem to escape that some of these story beats have been done before in the same way.
That being said, it would be harsh to not also judge the film on its merits. So looking at it from another perspective (perhaps playing… Contrarian’s Argument), Danny Collins does have enough going for it to be suitably entertaining. As said above, charisma is certainly not in short supply, with Pacino filling the screen with a grandiose, swirling tornado of a character who sweeps in and says things (many of which are seemingly off the cuff) to energise the room.
With John Lennon’s words, and music, ringing out of the speakers and in Danny’s ears, it seems Danny is going through a midlife existential crisis. Worried that what he’s produced either isn’t good enough or is a tired act in an age where relevance is seen as all-important and life-affirming, it’s easy to see Danny Collins falling into his old routine after the credits roll.
Any Beatles fans will be mildly pleased by the light use of the band’s music, but it’s more about the idea of not becoming stagnant as opposed to watching a musician creating. This could’ve been a movie about a filmmaker, a writer or any other profession where creativity and money crash together.
Annette Benning reliably plays Mary Sinclair, the love interest who perhaps unrealistically decides to join our hero for a drink at the end of a long day. Tom (Cannavale) and Samantha Donnelly (Garner) share an affecting moment towards the end of the movie, as the camera sweeps slowly across their home life that rings true. Christopher Plummer, seemingly able to play his part of manager and best friend in his sleep if he wanted to, provides laughs while at the same time giving Danny a reminder of what the music business is like.
Overall, Danny Collins is an at times surprisingly emotional movie that draws viewers in. The audience around me were certainly entertained and even on tenterhooks with some parts of the journeys undertaken by each character. The nervous laughter as a character awaits an important piece of news says it all. There is life in Danny Collins, but not enough creative verve or relevance to be among the best.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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