An aging rock star decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.
Inspired by the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, ‘Danny Collins’ is a film about an aging rock star who discovers a letter John Lennon wrote to him back when he was starting out, which starts to make him question how he’s lived his life. Collins (Al Pacino) is still a fairly big draw, playing to big crowds and living a lavish rock star lifestyle with a massive house, a wife half his age (his third) and plenty of drink and drugs, but he hasn’t written a new song in 30 years. There’s a sense that even before he opens that letter that he’s not a happy man, and the substance abuse is purely his way of coping with playing the same old songs every night, with his former passion lost.
The letter is the trigger that forces Collins to re-evaluate his life, and he sets out to change by cancelling his tour, leaving his wife and setting out to track down his son who he’s never met. This takes him to a Hilton hotel in New Jersey (giving up the lavish lifestyle didn’t mean giving up everything!), where he starts to rediscover his passion for writing songs and he makes serious efforts to change his ways. As the titular character, Al Pacino drives the film and his charismatic portrayal of the aging rock star helps the audience to sympathise with the character, even when he’s clearly in the wrong. Everyone loves a redemption story and we’re rooting for Collins throughout, to reconnect with his son and to discover the passion and drive that made him successful to begin with. Pacino delivers a subtle performance and his interactions with the hotel staff, particularly the hotel manager (and love interest), played by Annette Bening have a playful and natural feel that is enjoyable to watch.
The material is undoubtedly formulaic and there have been more ambitious attempts to tell a grittier and darker redemption story in the likes of ‘The Wrestler’, but ‘Danny Collins’ shines through the likability of its star, with Pacino having as much fun here as he’s had in many years. A supporting cast that includes the likes of Bening, Christopher Plummer and Bobby Cannavale all help to elevate the material, and whilst the film veers into overly melodramatic stakes towards the end of the film, the performances make the pay offs feel earned. ‘Danny Collins’ is an enjoyable comedy-drama with a charismatic central performance from Al Pacino, and I really enjoyed it.
Directed By: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Katarina Čas, Giselle Eisenberg, Melissa Benoist and Josh Peck