Danny Collins
dir-scr Dan Fogelman
prd Nimitt Mankad, Jessie Nelson
with Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner, Giselle Eisenberg, Melissa Benoist, Josh Peck, Katarina Cas, Brian Smith, Michael Patrick McGill, Nick Offerman
release US 20.Mar.15, UK 29.May.15
15/US 1h46
Danny Collins
The high-life: Plummer, Pacino and Cas

bening cannavale garner
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Danny Collins Based on a sliver of a true story, this gentle comedy-drama offers a wonderfully relaxed role for Pacino as an ageing rock star in search of some form of redemption after decades of hard living. While there is some edge to the humour, the film is soft and sentimental. It's also so engaging that the standard romantic-comedy structure isn't too annoying.

Still-partying musician Danny (Pacino) is stopped in his tracks when his manager Frank (Plummer) finds a handwritten letter John Lennon wrote to him more than 40 years earlier. Danny never saw the letter, and it sparks some soul-searching as he realises that the emptiness of his life is due to him abandoning himself to the trappings of stardom. So he decides to reconnect with the son (Cannavale) he's never met, a man with a pregnant wife (Garner) and a precocious young daughter (Eisenberg). And he's beyond angry at Danny for ignoring him all his life.

The story's trajectory is fairly obvious, although writer-director Fogelman fills every scene with prickly interaction that tries to convince us that these people will never get on. But it's all so sparkly that we know they will. This same inevitability applies to Danny's relentless flirting with his hotel manager (Bening). So even though the characters thankfully talk to each other like adults, and even though there are small surprises along the way, there's never any doubt about where each story strand is heading.

Pacino has a great time with the role, laid-back and up to no good. He's a terrific anti-hero, a guy who has made a mess of his life and will probably cause more problems in the years to come, and yet actually wants to do the right thing. This makes his interaction with the terrific Plummer and Bening sparkle, and it adds some darker intensity to his scenes with the excellent Cannavale and Garner, who bring a lot more than expected to their roles.

The script rather over-eggs everything, with several revelations that raise the emotional stakes higher than was strictly necessary. But Fogelman juggles the breezy comedy and the grittier drama with a light touch, drifting dangerously close to sappiness without ever crossing the line. His oddest decision was to use so many great John Lennon songs on the soundtrack while leaving us wanting to hear more of Danny's music. But the film is so carefully constructed that it can't help but leave us with a wry smile.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs, some nudity 13.May.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall