Friday, April 10, 2015

Danny Collins (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

"Danny Collins" Another Pacino Over-the-Top Role
I once saw Al Pacino in an off-Broadway play and his performance was astonishing. He has a way of making his over-the-top characters seem real -- whether it’s a blind guy who yells "Whoo-ah" or a bank robber looking to buy his partner a sex change operation, a seething young Mafia don or Shakespeare’s Shylock, a gangster who wants you to say hello to his "little friend" or the very devil himself.

Alfredo James Pacino has become iconic, an actor whose fierce performances have not diminished with age.

In "Danny Collins" he plays a burnt-out ‘70s rock star who wants to put his life back on track with the son he never acknowledged. Walking off his tour, Danny Collins checks into a New Jersey Hilton to be near his construction-worker son. Predictably, his unannounced visit is not exactly welcomed.

Even with his bad dye-job hair, flamboyant suits, and a pushy don’t-take-no attitude, Pacino manages to make Danny Collins seem real.

Sure, he hams it up. But we buy into it as the story unfolds.

We watch as this aging rocker persistently tries to woo the hotel manager (Annette Benning) at the same time intruding on the working-class lifestyle of his son’s family (Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner, with Giselle Eisenberg as the daughter with learning disabilities). The well-heeled Danny can help … if only they will let him.

What would make this aging rocker give up his big-spending, coke-sniffing hedonistic lifestyle? His epiphany comes when his manager (Christopher Plummer) presents him with a gone-astray letter from John Lennon urging young Danny to stay true to himself and his music. That makes him wonder how his life might’ve been different if he’d received it?

Maybe he wouldn’t have become a schlocky performer who hasn’t written a song in 30 years, relying on tired reprises of his one-time hit "Hey Baby Doll" (sort of a "Sweet Caroline"
Come to think of it, Danny Collins is a tad mindful of Neil Diamond. But it turns out that director-screenwriter Dan Fogelman actually got his inspiration for this "kind of based on a true story" from British folk singer Steve Tilson. When a magazine asked Tilson if he thought fame and fortune might corrupt his artistry, the singer had responded truthfully that yes, there was a good chance he would sell out like so many before him. John Lennon read the interview and wrote to Tilson in 1971, encouraging him to value art over money. However, the letter went astray and didn’t reach Tilson until a collector brought it to his attention in 2005.

Turns out, Tilson didn’t sell out, but our titular Danny Collins did.

After its debut as a New York Film Critics Series sneak preview, "Danny Collins" is now playing at Tropic Cinema.

The movie features nine songs by John Lennon. Everybody told Fogelman he’d never get the rights to use them. But being that the movie is a love letter to John Lennon and the way he lived his life, Yoko Ono gave a rare act of dispensation.


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