Starring Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer,
Just when I thought Al Pacino was down for the count, he reunites with Christopher Plummer, The Insider co-star, coincidentally his last great film role. Danny Collins and the indie film Manglehorn have proved to be somewhat of a revival for the 74-year old actor. His performance here as a washed up one hit wonder goes beyond similar stories. Writer/director Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love) rises to the occasion and delivers the best work of his career. Pacino is surrounded by brilliant actors doing top notch work making him even better. Fogelman keenly doesn’t allow the story to venture into sappy territory with subject matter and hardly ever follows stereotypes.
In his youth and early career, Danny Collins (Pacino) was destined to be a huge star, but like most of his famous generation, he let fame and the idea of being a rock star ruin the soul of his music. 40 Years later, Danny Collins is an irrelevant joke, preforming the same song from three decades ago, miming the words for golden girls who only see him in his youth. For his birthday, best friend and manager Frank (Plummer) finds a hand written note from John Lennon that Danny never received. It’s a wake-up call against all the drugs and wasted opportunities from then til now. He leaves everything, checks into a New Jersey Hilton and finally begins to write new music. He also for the first time, pays a visit to his son Tom (Cannavale) and family, hoping to make a difference in their lives for the first time.
Completely outside the Pacino comfort zone, it’s his best work in such a long time and it’s rewarding for his fans to see him truly acting again.
The introduction to Al Pacino as Danny Collins, walking on stage, pretending to sing and dance, is jarring. Pacino is probably the last person you would ever expect to fill this role, maybe that’s why it’s so perfect. Completely outside the Pacino comfort zone, it’s his best work in such a long time and it’s rewarding for his fans to see him truly acting again; the excitement over a great role is splashed across his face. The exact moment Oscar nominee Annette Benning (American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right) walks out from behind the Hilton hotel front desk the film’s quality is turned up in decibels. She was clearly cast for her stereotypical cold demeanor (much like the beginnings of her character in Mother & Child), however she is a perfect yin to Collins yang. Each moment with her serious demeanor clashing with his ridiculousness is like a perfect blend of flavors you would never have thought would go together, but taste amazing.
While I am watching Danny Collins, I took myself out of the film just for a second and looked at how Fogelman carefully created a believable and relatable world inside this suburban Hilton, it’s such great writing and conceptualizing. Each scene between Pacino and Cannavale builds a foundation on which the structure of the film rests; hatred and resentment, then it’s redemption, followed by disappointment only to end up somewhere honest. I can’t think of another film so far this year that has such spot on casting, even from Josh Peck (The Wackness) to Melissa Benoist (Whiplash), they are all apart of everything that is good about Pacino’s performance. The value in understanding the ensemble really makes this work in surprising ways.
Clever writing and a pitch perfect cast surround Pacino is his best performance since The Insider.