Thursday, April 9, 2015

Danny Collins

Fading Rock Star Finds Salvation
Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer

Review by James Colt Harrison

In a one-man show, Oscar® winning actor (8 nominations) Al Pacino dominates the screen throughout the comically dramatic film. Turning in a fascinating performance of a self-centered rock star of mega proportions, he has a change of heart and tries to be less selfish with his family and friends. Does it work? Partly, as he uses all his star power to be funny, touching, ashamed, contrite, and a power to be dealt with all at the same time.

As an aging rock performer, he still fills stadiums and concert halls with nostalgia-lovers who have seen more events than can fit on a thousand-year calendar. Collins may be aging, but so are his fans, loyal to (almost) the end. They gum his lyrics and happily sing along. He seems to be a compilation of Neil Diamond, Bruce Springfield, and his idol John Lennon. Pacino has all the swagger and braggadocio of someone who has been catered to all his musical life as a star. It’s not entirely his fault he is spoiled and bowed to like a king. Perks come with the job and he is, in effect, a victim of all that adulation.

Being on the road for years, womanizing every fan who will throw themselves at him, drinking gallons of liver-killing alcohol, and flying in private planes has turned his head and fatefully made him neglect his son back home. He actually has never met his son, played angrily by the handsome Bobby Cannavale, a perfect choice and believable as Collins’ offspring.

A turn of events happens when Collins’ road manager Frank, played smoothly by Christopher Plummer, brings some good news. At a glorious 85 years-old, Plummer seems to be one of the oldest living actors in Hollywood. Good for him---he’s marvelous. There’s not much trace of his Sound of Music days, but still charming nonetheless. Frank presents Danny with a 40 year-old letter from John Lennon that had never been delivered. Lennon was an unabashed fan and sent words of encouragement. This is a revelation to Danny and inspires him to have a change of heart and become a better father. It’s a bit schmaltzy and completely out of character for the self-centered rock star. But, the event helps propel the storyline, written by director Fogelman.

Collins makes a feeble, yet sincere effort to meet his son Tom. After years of neglect and non-contact, Tom wants nothing to do with his father. Cannavale, as Tom, is all grown up with is own family. Jennifer Garner and he have one hyper-active daughter (Giselle Eisenberg) and another baby on the way. They are not rich. They can use some help, but Tom wants nothing to do with his absent dad. Cannavale is one of the best male actors in films today. He always gives a good performance, and in this film he shows just the right amount of hurt, resentment and anger as is warranted.

The treacle flows by the gallon, dad and son make an uneasy peace pact, and they attempt to bring the family together. A twist of an unexpected illness helps to smooth things over, but it is an old Hollywood cliché to bring people closer.

With an uninspiring script to contend with, all the actors do their best with their parts. Pacino and Cannavale excel as well as they can. It’s not all drama and gloom. There are many funny scenes, and Pacino is also a master at comedy. In fact, he’s the entire picture.

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