An ageing rock star (Al Pacino) decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.
There is nothing more enjoyable than when you see a film with no expectations and end up being rewarded with great acting and good writing.
Al Pacino proves at 75 that he’s still got it. I was a little anxious after his recent endeavours. Understandably, he’s no spring chicken but Pacino looked like he was sleepwalking through his latest roles. In 88 Minutes, he was a mess. A zombie. A shell of the once great screen icon.
However, this time round? How glad I am to eat my own words. The man was on fine form. Funny, charismatic and lively. A resurgent performance.
This is very loosely, and I emphasize loosely, based on a true story about a musician who discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago. The rest, of course, is fictionalized.
We join Danny Collins as he drinks and drudges his way through the repetitive retread of his best hits. Hits he wrote 40 years ago. Pacino’s singing wasn’t bad. A little wispy but very much in the vein of Cat Stevens. I wasn’t expecting too much with his singing, to be honest.
His stage presence, on the other hand, was another story. Embracing his inner Barry Manilow. The velvet jackets, the flamboyant get up. Having a laugh and not giving two monkeys. A perfect showman. I’m not sure if the song ‘Baby Doll’ was made up for the film but it was quite catchy.
After receiving the letter, Collins (in typical movie fashion) soon re-evaluates his life and looks backs at all his regrets. Realizing that he might not be living the dream after all. Desperate to make amends and repair burned bridges, it’s not going to be an easy task for the ageing rocker.
Annette Bening was very good as the hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Forced to put up with the deluded musician and his many advances. The “patter” between the pair was top notch. They had great chemistry and you could tell they were having fun. There were moments where you couldn’t tell whether they were improvising or not.
It was good to see Jennifer Garner in a role. There wasn’t enough of her, to be honest. Giselle Eisenberg was adorable as Collins’ ADHD daughter. She played it really well and got the balance right. She didn’t irritate and stole the scene at every chance.
Bobby Cannavale proved yet again why he is such a versatile actor. The range that the man can do. To go from Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire to the Annie remake (Okay, the less we say about that. The better. But I never expected to see the gangster singing and dancing). He was brilliant as Collins’ estranged son, Tom. He worked well with Pacino and they really made the scorned father/son dynamic work.
It was also great to see Christopher Plummer play Collin’s best friend and manager. Not enough of him, either.
I was engrossed and impressed. An easygoing, entertaining affair. BUT even though the main cast were flawless, some of the supporting characters were a little weak.
Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was wasted in his role (No, seriously. Was he drunk?). The opening interview scene was needed to establish the reason for Lennon’s letter but Offerman didn’t really get to shine or deliver a laugh. Shame. The scene was a little unnecessary. The tape recording of the interview would have sufficed.
Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Whiplash) and Josh Peck (Drake and Josh) were a little disappointing. Their ongoing hotel staff romance felt forced. It was obviously an ongoing joke to break up the family stuff and Collins and Sinclair’s brewing romance but it didn’t really work and wasn’t that interesting.
The film may have been corny and a little predictable BUT there was enough charm and charisma from ol’ Scarface to breeze through it and the closing moments were tense, dramatic and uplifting.
The soundtrack was very good. And of course, it would be. You can’t have a story made around a loose John Lennon connection without using any of his repertoire. Writer/director Dan Fogelman made full use of the nine songs they were able to obtain from Lennon’s back catalogue. He incorporated every song to match a crucial moment in the film. A perfect example during a tense and awkward first meeting between Tom and Danny, the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ was playing in the background.
Why are films like this not getting enough publicity? It baffles me. The premise may seem like nothing more than a TV movie but there was enough talent and substance to make this stand out from the rest.
I highly recommend. Easygoing, funny, charming. A pleasant surprise.
3.5/5 (With room to change to a 4)