Movie Review - Danny Collins
Released before Meryl Streep's turn as an aging rock star, this film is what I wished Ricki and the Flash was more like. Both Pacino and Streep play musicians who become estranged from their children or one child in particular.
Writer-director Dan Fogelman doesn't complicate things too much. Diablo Cody who wrote Ricki and the Flash juggles a lot of baggage, perhaps too much that it all gets bogged down and often not let us understand why or how things are the way they are. I never really understood the titular character of Ricki. However, I do understand the titular character of Danny.
Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent and Blue Jasmine) co-stars as Tom Donnelly, a construction worker in the suburbs of New Jersey with a lovely and second-time pregnant wife, Samantha, played by Jennifer Garner, as well as a very energetic and talkative, 7-year-old daughter named Hope, played by Giselle Eisenberg. Tom is the one and only child of Danny Collins, a famous musician somewhere between Tom Jones and Bruce Springsteen. Tom Donnelly has never known his father and has given up wanting to know.
Danny had seemed to have given up as well. Things change when Danny's manager Frank, played by Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music and The Insider), presents Danny with a letter that was sent back in the 1970's that was intercepted and kept hidden for nearly 40 years. That letter was from the legendary and late John Lennon. The words therein push Danny to change or at least try to find the son he has since ignored.
In certain ways, Fogelman makes his job easier. There is a blank space between parent and child. As weird as it might sound, there's nothing shared that can complicate the sheer distance between the two. Cody didn't create a blank space. It's a muddled space and Cody and her characters get lost in it. That is perhaps the point to make the narrative more interesting, but it didn't work as well for me.
Fogelman's simple approach did. It may make the film less ambitious, but the delightful acting from everyone and not just Pacino more than makes up for any shortcomings. Annette Bening (American Beauty and The Kids Are All Right) also co-stars as Mary Sinclair, the manager of the Hilton hotel where Danny resides while in New Jersey. She and Pacino have great chemistry and great "patter" as they say.
Two, up-and-coming, TV actors Josh Peck (Grandfathered) and Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) play hotel employees. Peck plays Nicky, the valet, and Benoist plays Jamie, the front-desk clerk. They both become bright, giggly fans of Danny. They just are two, cute, young people for Danny to bounce off. Fogelman doesn't do much more with them but possibly should have.
The inciting incident is based on an actual event, but who knows if any of the family drama is true or even fact-based? Regardless, it leads to a very, well-done ending, which is probably one of about five movies this year with a really, fantastic ending. In fact, it's one of the best, as far as I'm concerned. It ends on a two-shot of Danny and Tom hinging on a line of dialogue. It releases such tension and hits with such an emotional punch.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, drug use and some nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.