“Dinner tomorrow?” asks Danny Collins. Mary Sinclair says, “You know what I like about you? You never give up.” Collins reponds, “Some dinners are worth fighting for.”
It’s been several years since Al Pacino has appeared in a good movie (2007’s Ocean’s Thirteen) and over a decade since his last truly mesmerizing lead performance on the big screen (2002’s Insomnia). Being familiar with his classic films (The Godfather trilogy, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Heat, etc.), I’d been hoping for the last several years for Pacino to appear in a film that not only was good but would enable him to deliver another unforgettable performance. That film finally emerged this year, and it’s called Danny Collins. I found the trailer intriguing when I first saw it and was excited by the film’s potential (the supporting cast was appealing as well). I recently found the chance to finally see Danny Collins on the big screen, and it was a wonderful experience.
2015’s Danny Collins follows an aging singer named Danny Collins who receives an over 40 year-old letter from John Lennon on his birthday. Filled with regret after reading it, Collins cancels the rest of his tour and heads to New Jersey to meet his adult son for the first time as well as rekindle his love for songwriting. First-time director Dan Fogelman assembled an outstanding cast that includes Al Pacino (as Danny Collins), Annette Bening (as Mary Sinclair), Bobby Cannavale (as Tom Donnelly), Jennifer Garner (as Samantha Donnelly), Christopher Plummer (as Frank Grubman), Giselle Eisenberg (as Hope Donnelly), Nick Offerman (as Magazine Interviewer), Melissa Benoist, (as Jamie), Josh Peck (as Nicky), Katarina Cas (as Sophie), Brian Smith (as Judd), and Scott Lawrence (as Dr. Kurtz).
Pacino gives one of his best performances ever as the famous musician Collins. He brings out the likeability and sadness of Collins and is quite convincing in his singing scenes. He emotionally conveys years of regret of a man who didn’t fight harder for his original songs many years before and of a man who didn’t find the courage soon enough to connect with his son and his son’s family. Despite Collins’ flaws, Pacino brings enough charm to the role to make him forgivable. Bening is also wonderful as the Hilton hotel manager in New Jersey that Collins stays at while he tries to connect with his family. Bening approaches her character as more than a potential love interest for Collins, bringing gravitas and is able to convey Mary’s backstory without going into a lot of detail. Cannavale brings the right amount of confusion and anger as Collins’ adult son, who must accept that Collins isn’t going anywhere after Collins shows up a few times.
Fogelman’s screenplay (inspired by folk musician Steve Tiltson, who received a letter in 2005 from John Lennon and Yoko Ono 34 years after it had been sent) explores redemption (Collins reconnecting with his family) and attempted reinvention (his first stab at songwriting in years). The use of actual John Lennon songs was particularly effective (and very enjoyable). Fogelman’s Danny Collins is a worthwhile effort with a promising narrative, wonderful music, and winning performances from a cast led by Al Pacino that brings their A-game. Don’t hesitate to check this one out!