Review: Danny Collins
In the same month that a film series spawned by a magazine article hits theatres with its seventh installment, we’ve also another curious inspired story, this one writ large from a personal letter. At least the latter does indicate at the start it’s only sort of a true story.
Danny Collins, an enjoyable if not formulaic melodrama, uses one man’s experience and creates a generic story around it about love, family, fame, and death. Some years ago, folk singer Steve Tilston received an encouraging and seemingly random letter from John Lennon about forty years too late. In it the late Beatle praises the man’s work and tells him not to fear fame and wealth.
Jump to this adaptation as it were by Dan Fogelman, an Al Pacino plays the titular singer who has achieved said wealth and fame. It is he who has a letter written by Lennon, and of course upon this discovery, decides to change his life and make amends.
The letter is given a mystical quality, and everything in Danny Collins is very on the nose; the daughter of his estranged son is named Hope, after all. It’s this wide-ranging redemption story filled with some crass humour, drugs, and sex, but also awkwardly endearing jokes, a cancer scare, and a lovely courtship.
What Danny Collins lacks in unpredictability, it makes up with dedication and brio. Pacino, Annette Bening (the coquettish love interest), Bobby Cannavale (the exhausted son), and Christopher Plummer (the savvy best friend), all have a warmth and humanity that make this film watchable. They also prop up a story that could easily fall into emotional manipulation.
Conflicting tones clash and mesh at random; it is part excess, part chaste love, part male bonding, and part charming comedy. Pacino brings it all together, as this indefatigable cavalier, more an allegory than a man, fighting off the constraints of singular fame to find true meaning; with a mythical letter in tow.