Danny Collins

Posted by Joel Copling on April 16, 2015

Al Pacino gives the type of performance in "Danny Collins" to which his recent professional rut (Let's face it: Mildly amusing though his self-deprecating appearance as himself was in 2011's "Jack and Jill," that isn't the type of project to which he should aspire) seems to have been leading. It's a performance that wins one over almost upon first meeting the titular, aging rock star, and amusing enough, the rock star is someone to whom one must become accustomed. When we meet him, he's in a loveless marriage that, we suspect, is entirely for show on the part of both parties. When she's caught in bed with another guy, he wishes them well, and it's a sincere, slightly exasperated gesture of confirmation.

It's also one of the things that chips away at the lovably grouchy exterior of a guy who's been too complacent and content with snorting cocaine and drinking excessively for far too long. The final nail in the coffin that makes him want to change his ways is when his manager and best friend Frank (a terrifically deadpan Christopher Plummer) makes him aware of an encouraging letter written to Danny by none other than John Lennon roughly forty years previously. The knowledge that he's been wasting his precious time off the stage when he could have been a stand-up guy prompts him to quit his current tour and track down the family he was too wishy-washy before to approach.

When he does show up, the scene plays out with the expected emotional beats. Danny's long-lost son Tom (Bobby Cannavale in a performance of surprising layers beyond the jilted offspring) wavers between annoyance and indifference at the sudden reappearance of his rock-star father into his life and those of his wife and daughter (an excellent, understated Jennifer Garner and an impossibly adorable Giselle Eisenberg). Tom has his own set of secrets, and he's been forced to live with them while juggling the prospect of a newborn child within the next few months and a hyperactive for whom he wishes he could do more. Even when Tom inevitably warms to the idea of Danny re-entering his life, the timing is off.

This familial reunion is the core of the film, but there's other good stuff here, too, such as the sort-of-a-romance that sparks between Danny and Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening, who has no shortage of charm here), manager of a Hilton Hotel at which Danny stays indefinitely while dealing with family life (Her reaction to his idea of a bad day in response to her own is a priceless sort of funny), and two young hotel employees played by Josh Peck and Melissa Benoist who really only need a prod in each other's direction, and Danny is happy to provide that. The film is just as happy to provide a dollop of bittersweet truth to its main character by the end, and where he settle is pretty much the expected middleground. "Danny Collins" is honest about Danny Collins, and thank goodness it doesn't feel the need to apologize on his behalf.

Film Information

Al Pacino (Danny Collins), Bobby Cannavale (Tom Donnelly), Annette Bening (Mary Sinclair), Jennifer Garner (Samantha Leigh Donnelly), Christopher Plummer (Frank Grubman).

Directed and written by Dan Fogelman.

Rated R (language, drug use, nudity).

106 minutes.

Released in select cities on March 20, 2015.