Danny Collins Blu-ray Review
DANNY COLLINS is a breath of fresh air. It is a buoyant and enthusiastic film that touches on the themes of redemption and forgiveness. This is Al Pacino’s best work in over a decade.
The movie tells the tale of aging rock star Danny Collins (Al Pacino). He’s currently on the road supporting his third greatest hits album. The man has everything that a performer can want. He has vast wealth, an adoring public and a young finance at home. But something is missing in his life. He’s just going through the motions. Before concerts, he has to snort lines of cocaine and drink some booze just to get through the show. Danny also has to be squeezed into his outfits because of his protruding waistline. It is an empty existence for him.
At his birthday party, his longtime manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) gives him a priceless present. It’s a hand written letter from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to him that he never got over 40 years ago. Lennon had read an interview he had given and Danny had said his biggest inspiration was Lennon. The letter gives Danny advice about dealing with fame and his phone number as well. This gets Danny thinking about his life and the choices he has made.
Director/Screenwriter Dan Fogelman based this event on a real life occurrence. Lennon had written a letter to English folk singer Steve Tilston that he never received for 35 years after a magazine interview. The rest of the story goes in its own direction. Fogelman has stated that Danny is a combination of Neil Diamond, Barry Mannilow and Rod Stewart.
The Neil Diamond comparison really sticks for me. Danny’s biggest hit is “Sweet Baby Doll” which sounds remarkably like “Sweet Caroline”. Danny’s wardrobe is a bit flamboyant and features a lot of black just like Diamond these days. In the movie, Danny states he hasn’t written a song in 35 years. This veers away from Diamond because he continued to write most of his songs. Diamond though went back to his stripped down roots about a decade ago. He worked with famed producer Rick Rubin and released “12 Songs” which was one of his most critically acclaimed albums in years. Danny wants to do that as well. He strives to write songs again and reconnect with his audience.
Besides Danny’s musical refocus he sets up shop in a Hilton in New Jersey to establish a connection with his grown up son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), his daughter-in-law Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and granddaughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg). Tom is still sore that Danny never reached out to him all these years to start a relationship. This is where the forgiveness and redemption part of the proceedings are at. It is quite bumpy with more than a few ups and downs. Danny helps get Hope into a prestigious school and also assists Tom with his issues. But Danny’s demons get in the way when a breakthrough is close. Danny also has a flirtation with the hotel manager named Mary (Annette Bening). She is closer in age to him than his finance, but still younger as conveniently pointed out by his manager in a funny exchange.
Pacino is in fine form here. He glides across the screen. It seems like the role he was born to play. He brings a world weariness to Danny, while also retaining his playful nature. There is a great scene where he was going to premiere one of his new songs. He’s playing a small gig and Mary and his family are in audience. He goes over to the piano to start the new song, but the audience is chanting for “Sweet Baby Doll”. This is what many artists have to face as their careers go forward. The audience wants the hits, but you want to try out new material. It is a delicate balancing act that trips up quite a few. Danny has the look on his face that he is not ready to unleash a new chapter in his career and instead retreats back to an old favorite. I think everyone can relate to this in any field. Change is a scary thing. The familiar is more comfortable and easier to navigate.
Fogelman does a wise thing by inserting John Lennon songs throughout to show where Danny’s journey is. It also subtly reminds the audience why Danny has started this change in his life. Frank’s interaction with Tom near in the end perfectly captures the spirit of the movie. Frank tells Tom how Danny helped him kick booze many years ago, while still living a debauched life. It reinforced the notion that Danny is a guy with a good heart, but who still has demons.
DANNY COLLINS is an immensely enjoyable film that I will gladly watch again. It shows again what a star Al Pacino is.
Video: The video looked fine.
Audio: The John Lennon songs sounded great. There were times where I had difficulties with the dialogue. Overall the sound was solid.
Behind the Scenes of Danny Collins (3:44): This is a short feature where the director and actor discuss the story.
Danny Collins-Album Covers Through the Years: It is interesting to see Pacino through the years on album covers. I will say that Danny would have had more albums than this.