Director/Writer: Dan Fogelman (Please be sure to read our interview with Dan in Chicago)
Limacher Low Down: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went into Danny Collins, but I knew that the cast should more than hold its own. I was pleasantly surprised, when the end credits rolled. I had a smile on my face and songs stuck in my head. The overall feel and tone of the movie was well paced and delivered laughs and heart, all in one movie. With everything that was great about this movie, I found a few things that felt a little off, and took away from what Danny Collins could truly have delivered.
Danny Collins starts with our title character sitting in an interview talking over career ambitions, influences, and showing how fragile and timid he truly is in his younger years. We skip ahead, roughly 40 years later, we see Danny Collins (Al Pacino) getting ready to perform a concert to kick off his latest tour.
When Danny is on stage, he looks around and realizes that his audience isn’t the age demographic it once was, and this reveals that father time is catching up with him as his next birthday approaches. There are some quick laughs after the concert when Danny is talking with his manager, Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer).
Once arriving home from the concert, Danny seeks out his much younger fiancée, and we see that Danny apparently lives the good life. The party moves us forward to the main plot point; Frank found a collector who had a letter that was written by John Lennon to Danny, offering the help of Yoko and himself to deal with stardom. Once reading the letter, Danny decides that it’s time to make a few changes in his life. I must say the chemistry between Plummer and Pacino leaps off the screen and helps establish that there is going to be some levity in the film. Humor is a very important tool utilized in Danny Collins, and it helps to add a dimension that could easily have been omitted.
Danny decides to take a trip, after admitting to his fiancée that he knows she’s been having an affair behind his back, which he was seemingly okay with. He packs a bag and heads out to New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey! He finds a hotel that will accompany his needs, and while checking in, the hotel manager, Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening), gains his attention. The first scene at the hotel really shows the personality of Danny Collins. Danny comes across as a people person, who just wants everyone to be happy, but we still don’t know if Danny himself is truly happy.
We then learn why he is in rural New Jersey, as he arrives at a house and when he knocks a little girl, Hope Donnelly (Giselle Eisenberg) answers the door. She immediately recognizes him as “the man from television.” Hope’s mother, Samantha Leigh Donnelly (Jennifer Garner), comes to the door, and she instantly recognizes Danny. Danny doesn’t get the warmest reception from Samantha at first, but they converse awaiting the arrival of Samantha’s husband, Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale). Tom comes through the door, embraces his family, and asks Danny to leave. This is when we truly discover that Danny is Tom’s father. This moment captures the tension that will be prevalent throughout the story and allows the audience into their world. The way that Pacino and Cannavale interact with each other is special. They come across as a strained father and son.
The movie progresses forward, as Danny establishes and builds a relationship with the family he never really showed that he cared for. He’s also trying to establish a relationship with Mary. Danny is starting to gain a greater understanding of what John and Yoko were trying to offer him, but he never knew they had extended the offer. Inspired, Danny starts working on the first original song he’s written in 30 years, getting his personal life in order, and is ready to show off his true come back. I enjoyed this part, simply because it shows the true vulnerability that Danny has been dealing with for some time. Pacino takes the time, and actually sings in a deep bass voice the new song that Danny is going to premiere. The song shows depth and really helps establish the new and changed Danny Collins.
As Danny prepares to try out his new song in front of a smaller audience, including Mary, Tom, Samantha, and Hope. Danny takes the small stage, and the people are genuinely enthused to see him perform in such an intimate atmosphere. Danny prepares to perform the first new song he’s written in over 30 years, but the fans only want to hear the hits, which Danny hides well that this reaction has actually crushed his spirit. Danny falls back into old bad habits, and the worst part is, he does it in front of his family. This was the hardest moment for most to see, it certainly was for me. This was the drama that most were expecting.
Not only was Danny not able to perform his new material, he learns he has to go back on tour singing the songs that he’s grown tired of to continue his lavish lifestyle. This was the dramatic part of the movie where we have to wait to see if situations will be resolved. The acting portrayed everything, including Pacino really looking like a defeated man. And he conveyed that even though Danny puts on a happy face, as soon as things look like they won’t change for him, he resorts back to his old ways. The core of the drama is something that I believe most people have felt, or dealt with, at some point in their lives. This was a nice element that could have easily been overlooked.
Danny decides that since he has to go on tour, it’s time to leave New Jersey, and get back to the life he was trying to put behind him. As we near the conclusion, Danny works to at least try to gain a little of the things he lost. Danny Collins does a few minor things to show those around him that he truly cares about them, but the most important person he needs to once again reconcile with is his son, Tom. Danny touches the hearts of those he has surrounded himself with in New Jersey, and even shows how big his heart is before he leaves the hotel. Danny decides to push forward, and not give up on trying to reconcile with Tom, and in the end, you’re just going to have to see for yourself how everything ends for Danny Collins.
I loved the humor and heart that Danny Collins delivers to the audience. There are a few minor details that took away from making this a better movie in my eyes. The scene depicting Danny resulting back to his old ways was difficult, but I understand the reason it was needed. There are also a few other details that just rubbed me wrong, and possibly could’ve been changed to something else, or just not even be a major factor. I know the plan was to add more of a redemption and family demographic, but especially when it comes to the character of Hope, it just missed the mark for me.
The acting was wonderful, and Pacino hasn’t been in this good a form in awhile. The acting was spectacular, the story was good, and the humor was fresh and funny. I really did enjoy Danny Collins, and I’m sure audiences will love everything that it brings out in them. If you have the opportunity, and want to see a movie with humor, heart, great acting, and don’t mind getting a song or too embedded in your head; Danny Collins will entertain and leave you with a smile on your face.