Shotgun a Beer: when the big twist is revealed in the credits.
Bodyshot ASAP: when Pacino dumps his fiancee
Take a Tequila Shot: every time a Lennon song is played
Down a 32 Oz: after you exit because you just saw why Pacino is still King.
By: Jake Turner (A Toast) –
How the world changes, I tell you. Hollywood has found a way to push one of the greatest actors of our generation, Al Pacino, into limited and VOD releases. It’s understandable that he hasn’t been able to stack the seats like he used to, but seriously, after seeing Danny Collins I can safely say that this would have been a modest hit 15 years ago and it is one of the best films of the year so far.
Think about it. You have Pacino, an all-star supporting cast, true story inspiration (names were changed), and the music of John Lennon. Lennon, people! You know how rare that is? It could be that I am an old soul too.
Out of order? I’ll show who is out of order. It’s the suits in Hollywood who are!
Right from the start, I knew I was going to enjoy this. Stripped down filmmaking where natural noise, storytelling, and performances would be the framework. Starting in the 70’s with a young Collins being interviewed by a reporter for a major magazine (hello, Nick Offerman) where he is gushing that Collins’s sound and writing is at the level of Lennon. Fast forward to Collins’s birthday at 70 years old, dating a woman half his age and becoming the one thing a musician doesn’t want to be. A sellout. He even admits to his blunt but friendly manager, Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) after his birthday party (I lost count how many fake white strip-heavy smiles there were in that scene alone), that he performs by playing the same songs over and over only because he made his fan base appreciate the few songs he wrote himself years ago. However, he admits that “he hasn’t written a song in over 30 years”. Grubman presents him a gift that only a sellout like Collins could get to go back to his roots and write something original.
He’s given a framed letter from the late John Lennon describing how good Collins was and not to waste his gift- if only he knew about it in the 70s instead of being 70, but that’s old school storytelling for you, and it sets Collins to leaving his already cheating fiancée with a smile as he flies all the way to… New Jersey.
When he is your inspiration, your movie is in good hands.
Yes, I said that right, New Jersey. He stays at a hotel, charming the help and a certain woman of adorable stubbornness, Mary, played wonderfully by Annette Bening, who is (ironically) the hotel manager. He finds a way to charm his way into letting them move his grand piano into a small room. He makes the most of his time, to say the least. We even find out that he has some demons to deal with including facing his son, Tom (played stubbornly by Bobby Cannavale) who happened during a one-night stand, and reuniting with his family. Danny is a grandfather too?! Man, so much in this but I bought it.
Pacino is the only one to give this man a problem and get away with it.
Writer/Director Dan Fogelman pays respect to Lennon by peppering in some of his greatest hits like Working Class Hero, Hold On, and Beautiful Boy to emphasize the influence he had on music and our fictional character’s journey back to inner peace and originality.
As you can see, I could talk about this movie for a long time, but let’s just say this. It is my favorite old-school film of the year. Pacino and Bening (as usual) deliver great performances. Pacino fits Collins like a glove. His complexity and, at times, delusional thought process can come off as likable. Sometimes it makes you feel like he thinks he’s still in his heyday with the ladies. Bening and he have a great chemistry, slowly flirting with each other as one continues to charm the other. You can’t help but smile when they are interacting. While I did appreciate Cannavale bringing depth to his character, I couldn’t get enough of Jennifer Garner as his pregnant wife, Samantha. She brings an independent and spitfire persona that shuts down Collins’ charm with one open of the door and an awkward introduction, while child actress Giselle Eisenberg brought her own energetic charm and likability to their daughter, Hope. I wouldn’t doubt if Pacino lost character around this little girl. She’s a delight. Plummer as usual is great and makes the best of his small time on screen.
Do you not understand the kind of pull I still have in Hollywood?
Danny Collins has a lot going on with its story but it’s the terrific performances, great music, and stripped down filmmaking by director Dan Fogelman that keeps this tune from never getting stale. If you are tired of the countless summer blockbusters, take a break and enjoy a diamond in the rough like this. It should be easy though. Just say the words, “Al Pacino” and you will be watching it in no time.