Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Dan Fogelman (writer, The Guilt Trip) directs this latest "delinquent dad does good" tale, "Danny Collins," about a leathery rocker. It is not original by any means, but thanks to a beguiling performance by Al Pacino in the title role, the film has a palpable spirit, mostly because it so earnestly pretends that its predecessors (As Good As it Gets, It's Complicated) did not exist.
At a birthday party, his manager (Christopher Plummer) gives him a present of a letter from John Lennon, essentially telling him to stay honest and relevant. There was an actual musician, Steve Tilston who received such a letter but that is where the true smidgen of this film ends.
Danny is thrown for a loop and decides to hit the road for inspiration.
The film is greatly enriched by the self-deprecating performance of Pacino who offers his lines with a refreshing offhand innocence in parallel to Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow for the first time or even Larry David due to some "good patter."
Pacino's eye rolling is humorous and his wrinkles nudge the audience with good cheer. Finally, one sees a real person here, with all of his avoidance of seriousness and deflecting humor. The "Hoo-Ha!" of Col. Frank Slade is over at last. There is enough gravity to make him emote.
Also, a soundtrack with many original Lennon songs give the film an unexpected poignant quality. This succeeds because the songs blend well and become part of the film itself. John Lennon is frequently mentioned and his musical aura haunts the film in semi-comic cries that sound into pulses of meaning.
Another credit is Giselle Eisenberg as Danny's toddler granddaughter. Eisenberg has a freewheeling spontaneity in this conventional role. Her acting gives off a real sense of give and take with the seasoned Pacino, while her exchanges are nearly madcap.
On the not so thrilling side is Jennifer Garner as Danny's sister-in-law who doesn't do much.
Actor Bobby Cannavale is Tom, Danny's son, who gives a stock, yet believable turn with a rather pat character.
Annette Bening is here too, but like Christopher Plummer, she feels a bit generic and thrown in a formulaic pot.
Above all though, and to cheerful effect, "Danny Collins" has an easy tone of affection. Al Pacino combines with the chords of John Lennon to make a sentimental character study, not only of a music man with backstage jitters and regrets, but perhaps of an actor as well.
Write Ian at email@example.com