Danny Collins - Familiar Story, Funny Story, Touching Story

Matthew Parkinson | 12 Apr 2015 12:00
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Directed and written by Dan Fogelman. Produced by Nimitt Mankad, Jessie Nelson, Denise Di Novi, and Shivani Rawat. Release date: March 20, 2015.

The last decade and a half of Al Pacino's career hasn't been particularly good - and that might be an understatement. Anyone who appeared in Gigli, 88 Minutes, and Jack and Jill during that period isn't exactly racking up the accolades. As a result, for those who don't go back and watch older movies, there's a perception out there that Pacino isn't a good actor, or that he isn't any longer. To those people I say this: Watch Danny Collins and be reminded - or taught - just how good Pacino can be.

Danny Collins does begin with a relatively familiar premise. Pacino plays the eponymous lead, a rock star who has been performing for 40 years and at this point is addicted to both drink and drugs. On one of his birthdays, his manager (Christopher Plummer), gives him a long-lost letter from John Lennon, which tells Danny not to stop writing songs, as Lennon liked them. Danny, having not seen the letter, sold out and stopped writing his own music. The discovery of the letter leads to an epiphany of sorts, so Danny decides to leave his mansion of a house and go meet and hopefully connect with his now-adult son, Tom (Bobby Cannavale), whom he had never previously met, all while getting back in touch with the man he used to be, prior to all of the selling out and drug/alcohol abuse.

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This isn't a unique story. "Guy wants to reconnect with his estranged family" is something we've seen in films before. We've seen tales of redemption since before we had sound in our movies. Danny Collins works in spite of this. At one point it actually addresses its clich├ęd story directly and tells us that it isn't that type of film. And despite still falling for some of the story's pratfalls and predictable moments, this is a movie that still offers an enjoyable, funny, and surprisingly sweet and earnest experience.

Part of the reason it succeeds is because of Danny as a character. Quite often in these types of movies, the lead is an awful person at the start and over the course of the film develops into something resembling a decent human being. In Danny Collins, our protagonist begins the film as an addict, but not a bad person. The letter doesn't spark a change so much as it does provoke him into doing something he's wanted to do for a long time. He treats everyone nicely, he's incredibly charming, and he's quite funny. You want to root for Danny right off the bat, which is a nice change from what these films typically offer.

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