Inspired in part – and a very small part – by true events, Danny Collins tells the story of an ageing rockstar, stuck in his binge-drinking, drug-taking, louche-living ways, who learns of the existence of a letter written to him by John Lennon forty years after its creation. Spurred by the advice doled out by the Beatle, Collins aims to set his life to rights, starting by chucking both his cocaine and his twenty-something fiancée. Jetting across the United States, Collins checks into a stuffy, staid New Jersey hotel, and sets out to meet his adult son – for the first time in his life.
Al Pacino is in his element as the ageing, charming rake, flouncing through New Jersey in silk scarves and pocket squares. Never without a sharp line or a witty quip, the potential to overplay Collins as a pantomime smoothie is great; writer/director Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid Love and Tangled) manages to keep a leash on Pacino’s central performance, ensuring the movie remains in the realms of reality and emphasises the humanity of a potentially cartoonish character. Annette Benning puts in a natural, likeable interpretation as the hotel manager and possible love interest, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Collins’ granddaughter, Hope. Playing a hyperactive five-year-old, Giselle Eisenberg manages a feat many other child actors struggle to achieve: playing a child exactly like a child.
The film is not without flaws; the character of Tom, the son (played by Bobby Cannavale), could be better developed, as could the relationship between father and son, but the central and supporting performances are both strong and subtle enough to carry the film above the chocolate-box-schmaltz it could have potentially become. Teetering on cliché, but saved by its cast and restrained direction, Danny Collins is an enjoyable foray into one man’s late-in-life journey to find what really matters.
Danny Collins is released nationwide on 29th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for Danny Collins here: