Sunday, March 15, 2015
We meet Al Pacino's Danny Collins after a tantalizing glimpse of the promising but petrified young singer as played by Eric Michael Roy, looking and sounding uncannily like the young Pacino, whose tortured-soul realism was Method acting at its most electric. Cut to the older Collins, a perpetually smashed, paunchy sellout dabbing on the spray tan before heading on stage to deliver yet another canned concert. It's a jarring juxtaposition, since Danny's expertly faked enthusiasm and outsized gestures evoke Pacino's jarringly jazzed-up speeches in big-budget hokum like Gigli, S1m0ne, Devil's Advocate, and Scent of a Woman. But the show Danny puts on for his geriatric fans is only one small piece of a beautifully modulated, gently bemused performance by the actor, who just might be identifying with his character's thirst to regain the artistic purity and passion of his youth.
Danny's journey begins after a scene or two in his coldly luxurious LA home. We see just enough of that to know why he needs to escape (a shot of several beautiful young women in bathing suits lying by the pool at his birthday party while a row of late-middle-aged men in suits eyes them from behind their dark glasses sums it up nicely). Then Danny is given a letter John Lennon wrote to him when he was a young man, which was sold to a collector instead of being delivered to him. (The film was inspired by the story of singer Steve Tilston, who got that letter from Lennon in 2005, though the similarities between his story and Danny's end there.) Gobsmacked by the letter's message of encouragement and the phone number Lennon included, Danny wonders what might have happened if he'd gotten it back in 1971 and made the call, then decides it's not too late to return to his authentic self. He promptly dumps his gold-digging fiancée, cancels his tour, and checks into a hotel in New Jersey, where he tries to establish a relationship with Tom (Bobby Cannavale), the son he's never met, while getting back to his songwriting roots.
That all happens within the first few minutes, and the rest turns out as one might expect. But Pacino and his co-stars enliven the tidy narrative progression and resolution. Read the rest on Slant Magazine