"Danny Collins" ...the movie
Al Pacino and the all-star cast of “Danny Collins” will play you like a Stradivarius and by the time they’re done, you’ll feel like one. The movie is a delightful feel-good affair but with enough burrs along the edges to give it keep it grounded.
Danny Collins is a washed up, once wildly popular singer who’s running on fumes, many of them in the form of lines of cocaine and slugs of whiskey. He’s crazy wealthy, has the requisite million-dollar mansion in Hollywood and a trophy fiancée a third of his age. Creatively he’s been dead a long time. Lately he’s been thinking of ending it all.
A heartthrob and hit singer in the 1970s, he knows his ship has sailed. He hasn’t written a new song in decades, plays his hits to the oldsters who grew up, got high and probably got laid with his songs as a backdrop. His current shows give them a chance to get in touch with their inner rebel and they fill every venue he plays in. The shows remind him he’s wasted most of life reprising his Best of Danny Collins.
The movie opens as his manager and longtime friend, played sumptuously by Christopher Plummer, no less, gives Danny a present to mark his birthday somewhere in his seventh decade. Years ago after reading a rousing review of Collin’s music in Rolling Stone type magazine, John Lennon wrote Danny a note complimenting on his music and inviting Danny to visit with him and Yoko to talk about songwriting. For unspecified reasons, the letter was never delivered to Collins.
Collins’ manager has tracked down the letter and gives it to Collins as a birthday present.
“Being rich and famous doesn’t change the way you think. It doesn’t corrupt your ART. Only you can do that….Stay true to your music. Stay true to yourself. The rest will follow…” Lennon wrote.
The fuse has been lit. Collins hits the reset button and the movie lifts off the ground. He tells his manager he’s quitting his tour, leaves his fiancée, gets into his jet and heads for New Jersey to hole up in a suburban Hilton to connect with a son he’s never met. He’s seeking redemption. The road is rocky.
Miracles don’t immediately ensue but a wonderful, touching, warmly rendered story does.
Pacino brings out the A games from fellow actors Christopher Plummer as his agent, Bobby Cannavale as the son he’s never known, and Jennifer Garner as the son’s wife. The banter between Pacino and hotel manager Mary played by actress of a certain age Annette Bening is spectacular, comic and electric. There are scenes that make you laugh, scenes that make you cry as he fumbles his way toward connecting with his son. “Danny Collins” is one of those Pacino movies like “Scent of a Woman” that I’ll see again and again, wringing pleasure out of every viewing.
For a fabulous review by one of my favorite critics go here. I’m sticking with Pacino the actor. I want to talk about Pacino’s age.
What I love about this movie is Al Pacino’s face. It’s craggy, with graying eyebrows and beard and betrays no signs of cosmetic surgery. His neck, always visible with his 1970s style unbuttoned shirts, shows its wattles proudly like battle scars. I have those same battle scars. He shows them off like trophies. If Danny and Al don’t care about theirs, why should I fret about mine?
His face telegraphs charm, rascality, self-loathing, stubbornness, joy, uncertainty, sadness, and optimism sometimes within rapid succession of each other. That face has miles on it. The face I see in the mirror has about the same mileage. He’s my boomer brother.
I’ll bet there are a million guys who cheer Al Pacino not just for his acting but because he’s not hiding the fact that he’s aged just like we have. And he’s comfortable with it. Hell, he’s flaunting it. Other than his wild hairdo showing no gray whatsoever, somebody’d be likely to say, “Hey, look at those two good-looking old Italian guys sitting at the bar over there!” if they saw us having a drink down at the Ritz.
So thank you, Danny and Al, for such a rich portrayal of life way past our primes. We still got game. And we’ve got the creases and wrinkles to show we’ve been at it for a long time.