Al Pacino has proven time and again that he can play a tough guy. His performances in films such as Dog Day Afternoon
and The Godfather
demonstrate the intensity he can bring to a role. But now, at age 74, it’s probably time for him to leave those types of roles behind. He gracefully takes on a kinder and gentler part in Danny Collins
, a film about a folk singer who suddenly realizes he hasn’t stayed true to his craft. In fact, Pacino’s charm carries the often-sentimental movie. The film opens tonight with select sneak peak screenings and then starts playing areawide tomorrow.
Based on the true story of English singer Steve Tilston, the film centers on the shift that occurs in Danny’s life after he receives a letter of support that John Lennon wrote him. As the story goes (and this part of the movie is faithful to the true story), Lennon wrote the letter after having read an interview in which Tilston says he thinks wealth and fame might ruin his songwriting. The movie recreates that interview and then flashes forward to catch Danny’s reaction when he reads it for the first time a few decades down the road. It sends Danny, who comes off as a modern-day Neil Diamond, into a tailspin. Sure, he’s making big bucks singing cheesy crowdpleasers, but he’s not really all that happy. So Danny sets out to make some changes. Big changes.
He holes up in a hotel in the Jersey suburbs near the home of his long lost son Tom (Bobby Cannavale) and his son’s wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner). He shows up unannounced and instantly bonds with his chatty granddaughter (Giselle Eisenberg). Tom isn’t thrilled. He wants little to do with Danny and doesn’t care for the way he rolls into town on a huge tour bus with his name plastered on the side of it.
Over at the hotel, Danny works on writing new material that’s a little less commercial. He has a piano put in his suite and uses the hotel manager Mary (Annette Bening) as a sounding board. Of course, the journey isn’t a smooth one and Danny has to work hard to try to win over both his son and Mary. And his struggles with drugs and alcohol don't help matters. This is where Pacino shines. He nicely balances the intensity for which he’s known with a softness that makes the character truly endearing. Christopher Plummer deserves mention, too, for portraying his sometimes surly manager with a similar sort of depth.