<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Dan Fogelman. Starring Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Josh Peck, Melissa Benoist, Giselle Eisenberg
Some films can be so clichéd but still so wonderful that you realise every movie needs that bit of magic from the writer or the actors to just make it delightful.
Danny Collins quickly and adeptly sets us up with the background of the title character played immensely and adorably by Al Pacino. A young and talented song writer/singer goes on to become a rock ‘n’ roll star to an ageing has-been who is still giving tours to his mostly geriatric fans who don’t mind him belting out old numbers while he’s high on drugs and alcohol.
You can see the disappointment and dissatisfaction in his eyes, his gait and his manner. His health has failed him because his mind has given up on life inspite of living in a mansion with a girl half his age, flying around in a private jet and driving a gull-wing door Mercedes Benz. And then on his birthday, his loyal manager and friend Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) gives him a gift: a letter written to Danny by John Lennon in 1971, which he sent to a magazine publisher after reading his interview but unfortunately never got to him. This was inspired by a true story about the letter that happened to British folk singer Steve Tilston but the similarity ends at the long-delayed letter.
In a trice, the handwritten words from a legend inspire Danny to ditch his empty life and take off to New Jersey where he stays at the Hilton and engages in witty banter with the staff and the manager, Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening). But this isn’t a breakdown or him running away from it all, as he charmingly reveals to Mary. It’s about connecting with his son Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale) whose mother Danny had a brief affair with on the road. Tom isn’t too thrilled to see him though and tells him to leave him, his pregnant wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and their hyperactive but highly adorable daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg), alone.
Rock star antics and his inimitable charisma manage to win everyone over at varying points of time in the film, though not all his interactions bear out the way you expect them to, which is refreshing in what is a generally play-it-by-the-book feel good comedy-drama.
The characters and actors in Danny Collins have great chemistry and all play well above par, which is quite something considering Al Pacino is superbly subtle in his role that balances his old eccentric lifestyle with his newfound epiphany and emotions. There’s so much wit and so many adorable moments in the film that keep you smiling you almost forget all the done-before chestnuts.
PS: The Hindi film Piku was widely lauded for being different and charming but I somehow felt that it lacked some depth and magic. This is the element that Danny Collins has so much of and that made me enjoy this one heaps more.