Crazy, Stupid, Love scribe Dan Fogelman makes his directorial debut with the Al Pacino-starring Danny Collins. Inspired ‘a little bit’ by the story of singer Steve Tilston, this charming musically-laced romp follows a veteran entertainer as he looks to shape up and get his life and career back into gear.
Danny Collins (Pacino) is going through the motions. Engaged to a blonde 20-something a third his age and sticking enough coke up his nose to kill off Big Foot; the artist is the epitome of the stereotypical rock star. Once an artist with the world at his feet (“You write like fuckin’ Lennon man!”), Collins’ career has gone stale. Having not written a song in over thirty years, he now finds that he’s churning out the same old hits to an ageing fan base. When friend, and manager, Frank (Christopher Plummer), gives the veteran rocker a 40-year-old handwritten letter from his idol John Lennon. The note, of which he was unaware, leads the previously uninspired millionaire to a Beatles-induced epiphany. In an attempt to “change shit up”, Collins goes in search of his estranged son, Tom (Bobby Cannavale), while attempting to re-find his creative touch with the help of hotel manager, Mary (Annette Bening), to get his life back on track.
Al Pacino rocks the washed up, ageing rock star look with incredible ease as he swans about, top button open, seducing every OAP he meets with his gritty tones and cheeky, I’m-old-and-I-know-it one-liners. Beat by beat though, Fogelman’s script – with the songs of John Lennon as its soundtrack – is tiresomely predictable as the film bounces from one cliché (sex, drugs and rock and roll, essentially) to the next without a hint of subtlety. There’s much silliness and over-elaborate flamboyance which engulfs this tuneful flick, but it’s difficult (painstakingly challenging, in fact) not to fall under its gleeful, witty charm.
It’s all a ludicrous, yet funny, karaoke-like ball that works far better than it should, and holds a surprising amount of heart. From Christopher Plummer’s sharply dressed, straight-talking, teetotal Frank to the flirty “patter” shared between Pacino and Bening’s stick-in-the-mud-turned-love-interest, Mary, there’s regular laughs to be had, while the father-son relationship – featuring a heartfelt turn from the impressive Cannavale – adds a real sweet touch to proceedings.
Like a Neil Diamond tribute act at Butlins on a warm summer night, a chirpy Al Pacino seems perfectly at home enrapturing liquorice-eating older ladies in the front row of a gig. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether you’re chuckling with it or at it, but Danny Collins is a lot of fun, with a string of different, yet well-executed performances, that turns cheesy, predictable fare into a thoroughly watchable, and very enjoyable, spectacle.