Al Pacino pours on the Pacino charm in Danny Collins, a generally pleasant and contemplative comedy-drama co-starring Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner, and the very busy Christopher Plummer in which Pacino does something I don’t think I’ve seen him do in a movie: sing. Not a whole lot, mind you, and not exactly smoothly, but warble he does.
He plays the title character, a very successful singer in the Neil Diamond mold who drinks and snorts cocaine, plays the same old songs at sold-out concerts attended by people of a certain age, and has a much younger girlfriend (Katarina Cas). When friend and manager Plummer gives Pacino a letter written to Pacino by John Lennon forty years before, Pacino decides to change things up.
Of his two performance modes—loud and over-the-top and quiet and introspective—Pacino thankfully lands on the latter side as Collins, even during the second act as his attempt to alter his life predictably collapses. That, and how effortlessly he imbues Collins with just enough lighthearted charisma, and deep regret about his past, helps us like him and empathize with him all the more.
And a wonderful bunch of talented people surround him, Cannavale in particular. He’s an incredibly underrated actor, as The Station Agent and Win Win can attest. Here, as the son Pacino meets for the first time, he’s believably angry and sad and warm and funny. Just watch the scene where he calmly calms his (adorably) hyperactive daughter and tell me you’re not impressed.
The reliable Bening makes her hotel manger a terrifically intelligent woman initially, and very amusingly, resistant to Pacino’s charms (though, with kudos to writer/director Dan Fogelman, she and Pacino don’t hook up romantically). And Plummer’s great as Pacino’s pal/manager, gruffly trying to give Pacino advice and earning laughs with his dislike of New Jersey.
I can’t say every single character and situation feels fully fleshed out—e.g. Garner as Cannavale’s wife, and the hotel employees, played by Josh Peck and Melissa Benoist, for whom Pacino plays matchmaker. But in general Fogelman seems to know how to meld laughs with weightier stuff, and doesn’t over-sentimentalize, which explains the final scene that ends the film on a perfect note. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 6/30/15