Imagine how your life might have changed if a legend in your field had written you a personal letter in your youth. Now imagine the life reassessing shock of discovering that very letter 40 years too late. For aging and fading pop rock star Danny Collins (Al Pacino), the imagined possibilities are endless and the life reassessment is at first devastating and then rejuvenating. After a flashy, lucrative and personally empty life of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll debauchery, Collins receives a letter of encouragement from John Lennon he should have received at the start of his career.
“Danny Collins” used the real-life fact of a folk singer receiving a 40-year-old letter from Lennon as its starting point. From there, screenwriter Dan Fogelman (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) also took the director’s chair for the first time to fashion an entertaining quest for redemption and validation before it’s too late. The result is a juicy showpiece steak for Pacino to sink his teeth into. Supported by some terrific co-stars with well-conceived characters, it’s a good time for everyone.
In his flashy suits, open at the neck shirts and draped scarves, Collins looks ridiculous. Just ask Mary, the spunky but world wise and weary manager of a Hilton Hotel in New Jersey. She’s played with wonderful charm and humor by a bespectacled Annette Benning and instantly grabs the attention of Collins. When not attempting to woo Mary, he tries to come to the aid of a young couple with a special needs daughter. Though solidly played by Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale, they are overpowered by an undeniably adorable little spark plug named Gieselle Eisenberg. As their young daughter, Hope, she is an energetic and absolute delight. However, we soon learn that behind that amusing façade is a difficult social disability hindering her life development.
As the title character, Pacino is ridiculous, ingratiating, revolting and tragic. He even does his own gravelly voiced singing with a style and signature tune similar to Neil Diamond. Collins is a far from perfect individual, but Pacino is the fits-like-a-glove perfect actor to play him. Though he’s given every opportunity to become a better man and artist, even his one loyal friend (beautifully play by Christopher Plummer) may not be able to save him from his own worst enemy: himself. You’ll have to see for yourself in what all leads to a final unforgettable scene of artistically brilliant simplicity.