Danny Collins

Directed By: Dan Fogelman

Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer, Melissa Benoist, and Josh Peck

A couple of years ago, I heard of this challenge for film aficionados called Mount Rushmore.  It essentially entails naming one's four favorite actors who would be on their cinematic Rushmore, figuratively speaking.  Without a shadow of a doubt, the one person who has a guaranteed spot on mine is the iconic Al Pacino.  In my humble opinion, there is no finer actor in all of cinematic history.  What's been unfortunate for all of us is how the once red hot career of this screen legend has languished in recent years.  Arguably, he hasn't made a truly great feature since Christopher Nolan's Insomnia.  With this in mind, it makes his impressive turn in this weekend's musical comedy-drama Danny Collins that much more worthwhile.

In 1971, Danny Collins (Pacino), an up-and-coming musician, does an interview with a journalist at Chime Magazine (Nick Offerman) and cites John Lennon as his greatest influence.  At the time, the singer and songwriter is considered the real deal with true artistic potential.  Some four decades later, Danny is now an aging rock star who is living off old glory from sugary tunes written by his studio such as "Hey, Baby Doll".  Like any superstar disconnected from reality with the help of his best friend and agent Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer), the 70ish Collins parties it up quite a bit with his hot young fiancée Sophie (Katarina Cas).  It's safe to say that the liquor and drugs are flowing for Danny Collins.

For Danny's birthday, Frank has a special gift.  He's found a decades-old letter from John Lennon that dates back to 1971.  The late rock star heard Danny's interview with Chime Magazine and wrote a letter to him about staying true to his artistic roots and not letting success get to him, things Danny Collins has not done by any measure.  When Danny receives the letter, he decides to make some changes in his life.  He cancels his tour and flies to New Jersey where he checks in at the local Hilton hotel to write new music.  Danny also sets his sights on meeting the son he's never known — a man by the name of Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale) — as well as his daughter-in-law Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and granddaughter Hope (Giselle Einberg).  He spends his nights at the hotel making passes at hotel manager Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening) as well as playing matchmaker with Hilton employees Jamie and Nicky (Melissa Benoist and Josh Peck).

It's great to see Pacino back on the big screen in fine form for Danny Collins.  The prolific actor has been sorely missed on the big screen.  As Danny Collins, the veteran actor may have found his second calling — comedy.  While he's not the first actor anyone would pick to portray an aging rock star, his skills on camera are undeniable.  As this train wreck with persistent redemptive qualities, Pacino simultaneously plays the role of the aging rock star with a gleeful yet melancholic disposition.  All the while, he has pitch perfect comedic timing that leads to plenty of laughs.  Surrounded by an immensely talented cast and under the direction of Dan Fogelman, the original movie mobster once again showcases just how versatile he is.

Pacino's supporting cast is nothing short of delightful.  For her part as Hilton hotel manager Mary Sinclair, Annette Bening delivers caustic wit with a customer-friendly smile.  She certainly has some good patter with Pacino on screen as demonstrated by them trading barbs throughout Danny Collins.  For his part as Tom Donnelly, Bobby Cannavale takes what would be an otherwise thankless, mundane role and elevates it to something more.  Offering a performance marked by bitterness and unresolved conflict, he delivers a rather poignant characterization of this ignored son.  Finally, we have Christopher Plummer as Frank Grubman.  Though he does portray a wise old man, he diverges from his typical performances in this late period in his career and adds quite a bit of spice to this film as this grumpy, foul-mouthed guy.  He comes in second place only to Pacino in delivering laughs.

Danny Collins is a well written, intriguing comedy drama that packs equally comedic and dramatic punches.  With a talented cast headlined by an Al Pacino firing on all cylinders, director Dan Fogelman’s feature doesn't miss a beat.  You won't need much for this one, just a couple of wine coolers.  Danny Collins gets a 0.03% rating.