Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Dan Fogelman
Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 3/9/15
Opens: March 20, 2015
Maybe it’s best not to have a family, despite what sociologists say about how married people are happier and live longer. If you’re an aging parent nowadays, you would not be considered too pessimistic if you think that your children will have nothing to do with you—or at best would put you in a home and visit once a month. On the other hand, if you’re a young person, you might suffer the misfortune of being unattended to by your own parents. Absentee fathers and uncaring folks are part of what makes dysfunctional families the norm.
“Danny Collins” is about the latter situation. The title character, now an aging rocker (Al Pacino), had a brief affair with a woman who later died of cancer. While Danny is on global tours, he complete ignores his son, Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale), a man who now has a pregnant wife, Samantha Leigh Donnelly (Jennifer Garner) and a small, hyperactive daughter, Jamie (Giselle Eisenberg). When Danny, now in his sixties, receives a four-decades’ old letter of praise from John Lennon delivered to him by his manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer), he decides to end his hard-living ways. No more drink, no more cocaine, and most of all Danny decides to become a real father for the first time. He shows up in his son’s house in New Jersey after flying in on his private plane only to discover that Tom, now afflicted with a life-threatening leukemia, is so angry that he does not want to talk to the older guy. For the remainder of the film, Danny considers it his job to make up for lost time, even to subsidize his granddaughter’s education by driving her every day from New Jersey to a progressive Manhattan school, and to be with Tom during a crucial medical appointment where Tom will hear how long he has left to live.
Al Pacino is his usual melodramatic self, whether singing his signature song “Hey, Baby Doll” in his sixties to a huge audience or making the rounds of smaller halls where he tries to convince an aging audience that “Hey, Baby Doll” has been done to death and that it’s time to hear some of Danny’s own compositions. There is considerable comedy and much pathos in the film, the comic turns finding him asking hotel manager Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening) for a dinner date so many times that the audience cannot be blamed for joining with Mary in saying “Enough, already.”
This is a family type comedy-drama, not an art-house style entry, which could attract not only Pacino’s regular fans but the soap opera crowd as well. Older members of the audience will find cheer in the possibility of their entering a second chapter in their own lives, but one may well wonder what attraction songs like “Hey, Baby Doll,” which does not have a rock rhythm, and a new composition from Danny which is more like a ballad you’d find on “Your Hit Parade” during the 1950s.
This is middlebrow Pacino, heartwarming but not especially emotional, written and directed by Dan Fogelman in his debut as a director—though Fogelman is well known as a screenwriter for such works as “Crazy Stupid Love,” also starring a middle-aged man, but that one trying to recover from his wife’s asking for a divorce by picking up girls in bars.
Rated R. 106 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B