Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Movie Review #241: "Danny Collins" (2015)

Movie"Danny Collins"
Ticket Price: $12.50
Showtime: 8:15 pm
Rating: R
Running Time 1 hour, 46 minutes
Image Source
Aging pop star Danny Collins (Al Pacino) has come to a crossroads in his life. On his birthday, his manager and best friend Frank (Christopher Plummer) gives him a framed letter written to Danny by John Lennon 40 years ago. Up until now, Danny never knew this letter existed, and though he has had a very successful pop career, he is more of a musical puppet as opposed to a true artist, singing songs other people write for him night in and night out and singing to support his heavy cocaine and alcohol addiction. Thinking about what would have happened if he had received this letter when he should have, Danny cancels the rest of his tour and leaves his young gold-digging girlfriend and begins making some changes in his life. He heads to a small New Jersey town to hole up in a hotel where he plans to write new music for the first time in over 30 years. He also plans to meet his adult son Tom (Bobby Cannavale) for the first time as well, though Tom doesn't want anything to do with him as he has problems of his own. 

In an effort to try to watch almost every movie that comes out in theaters, we often get our fair share of bad or disappointing films. Once in a while, though, we get a movie where we have seen the trailer and didn't go in expecting much, but were really pleasantly surprised by how good the film actually was. This is exactly the case with "Danny Collins" and we are really surprised how much we enjoyed the movie! Don't get us wrong, we love Al Pacino, but he hasn't exactly been on record as making the best career choices as of late. Let's just say we were all but blown away by his performance here. Pacino does a fantastic job capturing the attitude of an aging sellout pop star who travels from city to city singing the same hit songs over and over again for going on four decades. Despite all the wealth and women he has had throughout his career, fame has left Danny feeling hollow and with nothing to show for his success but a couple of nice cars, a cool house and a private jet. Even with all of these material things, Danny Collins is an infectiously charming man who is quite overly generous with those he comes across. Even though he does drugs and knows every line in the playboy handbook, his generosity and overall niceness make him very likable and we as the audience can't help but smile when he's trying to sell himself to someone. Pacino really took the bull by the horns in this role and gave a captivating, incredible performance that includes his own singing, something else we admire and respect him for attempting.

One of the best parts about Danny as a person is that he is very self-aware in some ways. He knows he has sold out, he knows he is missing something major in his life, and he knows his girlfriend, who is half his age, is an unfaithful gold-digger, but lets her and her lover crash at his place anyways because his heart's not in it either. He is also very persistent, which comes in handy when he meets his adult son, Tom, for the first time. Understandably ticked that Danny rolls into town after decades of silence, Tom claims he doesn't care enough to be angry, writes Danny off despite his attempts at a reconciliation, and wonders how he will tell his young daughter that "the man from TV" is actually her grandfather. We truly enjoyed Bobby Cannavale in the part of Tom. Cannavale is one of my favorites. Here, he has this great ability where he can play the part of an angry and resentful son, but is then able to transition into a loving husband and caring father with great ease and simplicity. Cannavale also has wonderful facial expressions in this movie, ranging from pained and hurt one minute to needing and almost forgiving the next. He and Pacino share some very intimate, touching, sincere moments together filled with both furious passion and understanding acceptance. Jennifer Garner also fits into the mix as Tom's pregnant wife Samantha, who astutely points out that she knows she would have been a good daughter-in-law and is sorry Danny missed out on years with her and her family. Cannavale and Garner work well together, as do Pacino and Garner, and when they are all on screen together, the casting couldn't be better. Then, there's Annette Bening, who plays Hilton hotel manager Mary and the object of Danny's affection. Despite rejecting most of his advances, she is able to offer great moral support to Danny in his attempt to reinvent himself as a legitimate musician, and also lends a sympathetic ear to his hopes to reconnect with his son. Danny and Mary have excellent patter and a solid dynamic. They obviously come to respect and understand each other as equals, and their relationship is sold so well because of the marvelous and refreshing chemistry between Pacino and Bening. We like where this movie takes their relationship when all is said and done, but won't go any further about the matter.

Sure, this movie might be dismissed as overly schmaltzy, but with a beautiful mix of sick, drug-induced, abandonment issued darkness and airy, grinning, cheesy pop-fluff, "Danny Collins," both the movie and the man himself, are really hard to resist. Between a wonderful John Lennon-centered soundtrack, a heartwarming story of redemption through faults, and fantastic acting all around, this is a movie we highly recommend, even if you're apprehensive about it. It will make you laugh AND make you cry, which in our minds means its worth every single penny.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Noah"

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