The plight of the aging rock star is something we’ve all seen on film before. It’s a premise that is not only entertaining but can be identified with by many. Anyone whose glory days are behind him or her and yearn for another shot is a universal theme and in the latest Al Pacino-starred dramedy Danny Collins, we see the highs and lows of someone who used to be great but has sadly fallen from grace. It’s a relatively big budget production full of notable stars and while it feels familiar, it’s actually a really strong film that will not only tug at your heartstrings but leave you laughing as well.
We first see Danny Collins (Pacino) in 1971, a young man with a great voice and a head full of dreams. He soon makes it big by becoming a rock sensation and his major hit “Hey Baby Doll” quickly becomes his signature anthem. Fast forward four decades and Danny now relies on spray tans, alcohol and bumps of cocaine to get him through a performance. He’s been on the decline for a while now, that is until his manager Frank (a hilariously dry Christopher Plummer) uncovers a letter to Danny from John Lennon. Apparently the letter never reached Danny until now and it contains a heartfelt message full of wisdom and encouragement. Now, armed with the knowledge contained within the letter, Danny decides to repair the damage he’s done throughout his life by meeting the son he never knew, resistant Tom (Bobby Cannavale), his equally resistant wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and their young hyperactive daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg).
Based on singer Steve Tilston’s actual experience involving a letter from John Lennon, Danny Collins doesn’t really break any new ground. In fact, this type of movie has been done before many a time. Redemption makes for some pretty compelling storytelling and it is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives. The legendary Al Pacino is in fine form here, everything from his flamboyant rock star persona, which includes garish clothes and plenty of substance use. During the film, Danny finds himself in New Jersey as he tries to connect with his estranged family. Along the way, he strikes up cutesy (albeit predictable) romance with hotel manager Mary (Annette Bening).
While Danny Collins doesn’t offer anything relatively new, its premise is something any casual filmgoer can get behind. Aside from Danny’s drug use, the film is pretty light in tone, making it appropriate for a wide range of audiences. A PG-13 rating would have sufficed except there is some profanity scattered throughout and the cocaine consumption makes the film a little more mature than the average coming-of-age tale. Pacino leads a pretty impressive cast and Cannavale, Garner, Bening and Plummer all do terrific work here. Writer/director Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love., Tangled) has put together a really enjoyable film with Danny Collins. The cast and performances are among the best in recent times and the story works despite it being done before. Al Pacino may be an aging superstar but his star is still shining bright, especially in this film.