Thursday, April 16, 2015
STARS: Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Annette Bening, Christoper Plummer, Jennifer Garner, Giselle Eisenberg
DIRECTOR: Dan Fogelman
GENRE: Comedy/ Drama
In the opening scene, over-the-hill pop music legend Danny Collins (Al Pacino), comes onstage to sing his big hit, "Baby Doll," which sounds an awful lot like Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline"--only more innocuous and schmaltzy, if you can imagine. His legion of adoring fans--on the leading edge of baby boomdom--are lapping it up. (They must have LOVED "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies.) Collins, who hasn't written a new song in thirty years, is resting on his laurels.
At a birthday party, Collins' manager, (Christopher Plummer), presents him with something that's going to change his life. It's a previously undelivered letter--full of encouragement--from John Lennon to the young up and coming singer. Upon reading it, Collins has an epiphany and decides to hole up at a quiet New Jersey hotel and write some meaningful songs. The other reason is that he'll be near the residence of the son he never met, the product of a backstage tryst. Danny shows up on their doorstep and his son's wife (Jennifer Garner) gives him an earful about being a responsible parent before the none too pleased son (Bobby Cannavale) shows up and essentially tells Danny to butt out of his life.
From there, Danny Collins becomes a familiar tale of a man seeking redemption, along with trying to get in the good graces (if not the knickers) of coy hotel manager Mary Sinclair, played by the inimitable Annette Bening.
There's a great John Lennon soundtrack that moves the action along, serving to remind us of what might have been had Danny Collins' fate taken a different turn. Al Pacino, as always, does a "bang-up" job as a guy who has it all--except the things that really matter--a real charmer despite his life of excess and unaccountability. But I can't really buy him physically as a Neil Diamond type. There's still something a bit too gangster about his aura---maybe it's Pacino himself...or the goatee...or the way they've got him dressed that's one step removed from the zoot suit era--that makes it incongruous with the kind of bubblegum ditties the character has built his career upon.
Little Giselle Eisenberg, already with an impressive list of film credits, plays Danny's bouncy, precocious grand daughter. She may be the next Drew Barrymore if she keeps it up.