Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Danny Collins 
CNS/USCCB () review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review
Danny Collins  (written and directed by Dan Fogelman) was insistently recommended to me by a parishioner and I'm happy to have taken her advice ;-).
The film -- "inspired, sort of, by a true story," the opening credits coyly declare ;-) -- is about Danny Collins (played with superb, endearing, desperation/cluelessness by Al Pacino) a fictionalized Neil Diamond-like superstar who's made his mark, made his fortune, but has always apparently worried deep-down that he was something of a clown / commercial sell-out.
And listening to Collins' "big hit" "Baby Doll," one INSTANTLY "understands." Most American/Western even most HUMAN viewers would INSTANTLY recognize the song as FRIGHTENINGLY similar to Diamond's ANTHEM Sweet Caroline which was ONCE such a GREAT, PASSIONATE, LET'S JUST GO OUT AND ... LOVE SONG [Lyrics], but sung NOW to a stadium-hall full of grandmothers and their teenage to mid-20-something GRANDDAUGHTERS seems SO, SO, SO ... sigh, that's life ... sad. (Sigh, I do still love Neil ;-).
So then, here is the fictional Danny Collins, 75 (!) years old, coming off HIS outdoor Hollywood Bowl-like concert full of still adoring grandmothers / granddaughters to his "surprise birthday party," organized by his could-REALLY-be-his-granddaughter-but-IS-his-fiancee' Sophie (played again with magnificent part-gold-digging / part-reverse-cradle-robbing but ALSO at least IN PART sincere cluelessness by Katarina Cas). There, his decades-long friend, perhaps his only friend / manager FRANK Grubman (played again spot on for the film by Christopher Plummer) gives him a gift that finally forces him to change his life (and mind you Frank's been living quite well off of the success of his star Danny Collins ...):
It turns out that EARLY in his career, still utterly starry-eyed, Danny did an interview for a "Spin" like magazine in which he was asked the stock question: "Who would you say are your influences?" And, NOT KNOWING HOW TO RESPOND, AGAIN THIS WAS HIS FIRST "REAL INTERVIEW" he says: JOHN LENNON. It turns out that JOHN LENNON READ THAT INTERVIEW IN THAT "Spin"-like magazine AND WROTE HIM A PERSONAL LETTER which he (Lennon) gave to his (Lennon's) manager to send to Danny. But (Lennon's) manager, pocketed the letter knowing it would "one day be valuable." WELL FORTY YEARS LATER, Danny's manager comes upon that letter at an auction and buys it for him for his 75th birthday. And so, he gives it to him.
In said letter, John writes: "You don't have to be a commercial success or sell-out. Just be true to your music. I'm leaving you my personal number. CALL ME, YOKO AND I CAN HELP. What do you think of that?" But Danny NEVER GOT THAT LETTER UNTIL NOW ... 40 years later (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO British folk artist named Steve Tilston who received such a letter from John Lennon 30 years after-the-fact ... inspiring, again, "sort of," this film ;-).
Well, Danny, who's ALWAYS THOUGHT deep down that he was something of a fraud, takes this letter as an excuse to try to change his life: (1) he cancels the remainder of his "grandma tour," (2) he flies out (on his private jet ...) to New Jersey, checks into an utterly nondescript suburban Hilton hotel, (3) has a $30K grand piano rolled into his hotel room ;-), so that he could start writing his own music again (after 30 years !!) and (4) if the Reader's wondering, "why nondescript suburban New Jersey?" well that's where his son (of him and a groupie some 30 years back) a son who he's never met, lives ...
It's a TALL ORDER, indeed AN IMPOSSIBLE ORDER, but that's a good part of the film's charm: Al Pacino's Danny Collins KNOWS that this is a pretty much AN IMPOSSIBLE ORDER, BUT (YEA!), CLOWN THOUGH HE IS, HE TRIES ANYWAY!
I love this film!
Does he succeed? I'm not going to tell you, but he does meet some interesting people: (1) His son Tom (played again magnificently and honestly by Bobby Cannavale), (2) his son's magnificent wife Samantha (played again spot on by Jennifer Garner), (3) their WONDERFUL DAUGHTER named HOPE (!) (played by Giselle Eisenberg) and then (4) a "more age appropriate" love interest named Mary Sinclair (played again wonderfully by Annette Bening) the simple, resigned, manager of said nondescript Hilton Hotel, where "nothing ever really happened." ;-)
Nice, honest, redemptive in a realistic way. Great film!
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