Sunday, January 3, 2016

Movie with Abe: Danny Collins

Danny Collins
Directed by Dan Fogelman
Released March 20, 2015

There were a number of films about the sordid lives of musicians in 2015, and most of them were based on real people. This film, “Danny Collins,” is based on a true story, but the musician in question wasn’t named Danny Collins. What Collins (Pacino) has in common with real-life folk singer Steve Tilston is that he found out, forty years after the fact, about a letter written to him by John Lennon praising both his music and his outlook on life. In Collins’ fictional story, discovering this letter prompts him to take a look at how he lives his life and change things in a big way.

In his seventies, Collins is still a success, singing hit tunes like “Hey Baby Doll” (which is eligible for the Oscar for Best Original Song) and living a comfortable lifestyle. His manager Frank (Christopher Plummer) has been with him for decades, and still looks after him even though he knows he doesn’t have much influence over what Collins will ultimately do. Getting this fateful letter inspires Collins to approach his son, Tom (Bobby Cannavale), whose reception is considerably icier than the lukewarm, tentative greeting he gets from Tom’s pregnant wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and the much warmer embrace of their daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg). To begin a relationship with them, Collins check into a Hilton where he also sets his eyes on the manager, Mary (Annette Bening), who seems determined not to be won over by this cocky rock star.

At no point in this film do the stakes feel particularly high, as Collins has little trouble finding his way into his son’s family life despite the fact that he hates him, and the success of his courtship effort with Mary has minimal bearing on his overall happiness. It’s all just about watching Collins talk and try to make things right in his mostly pleasant and fulfilling life. Fortunately, Pacino does put considerable effort into making Collins an endearing yet not fully likeable protagonist, and he is deserving of the Golden Globe nomination he received for his performance. In the supporting cast, the standouts are actually two actors currently appearing on freshmen series on television – Melissa Benoist from “Supergirl” and Josh Peck from “Grandfathered” as eager young hotel employees who treat Collins with respect and receive humor, smiles, and good tips from him. That’s the best way to describe this film: harmless and affirming.


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