James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
Cole Clay// Film Critic
Al Pacino is known for broad performances on screen. Let’s just say that subtle brooding isn’t Pacino’s thing. True, he hasn’t released a critical hit in a while, but to be fair, an actor is only good as the roles he/she is presented. But, as the titular DANNY COLLINS, Pacino channels a playful line of bravado that translates into a sweet brand of comedy that’s both effective and committed to plucking at your heart strings.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE screenwriter Dan Fogelman is able to keep a tight grip on his direction with a schmaltzy story. Collins is an aging pop superstar from the 1970s, think Bob Dylan turned Neil Diamond with way less songwriting talent. After receiving a hand-written letter from John Lennon – crafted 40-years prior – he has an existential crisis (like many 70-something coke heads do) and tries to mend fences with his estranged son (Bobby Cannavale). Danny Collins packs up his obnoxious red Mercedes and heads to New Jersey Holiday Inn, where he encounters a lovely cast of characters.
Pacino is a blast to watch in this role. He has a bronzed tan that is ridiculous and matched with a sheer self aware, cheese-ball charisma of a famed songwriter– it’s easy to see how Pacino grooved his way into this role rather easily. Although our anti-hero is in the third act of his career, director Fogelman doesn’t let the film come to an obvious crescendo. It rests in a space that profiles simple and sweet people. Take for instance the Holiday Inn manager Mary (Annette Bening), who Pacino has a helluva time flirting with in a charming, not quite dirty old man kind of way (his apparent veneers and bronzed tan are especially hilarious in these encounters). Fogelman creates a breezy aesthetic to the narrative– one that causes you to emote, by laughing, and genuinely feeling for those surrounding this absurd singer/songwriter.
The film is titled DANNY COLLINS, but it’s emotional core rests its laurels upon the broken father-son relationship between Cannavale and Pacino. They forge a rocky yet endearing relationship that isn’t as stark as Robert Redford’s ORDINARY PEOPLE, but (not to give too much away) has some of the same themes and undertones. Cannavale has got some serious talent in-between those PAUL BLART movies. This guy plays a perfect working-class everyman that has been lacking in Hollywood in recent memory. The duo execute verbal sparring matches that ride the thin line between love and hate.
DANNY COLLINS probably won’t break any box-office records, but it’s a good film. This is a crowd-pleaser that will have even the grumpiest of audience members imagine how they could better themselves, if even for a few fleeting moments.
DANNY COLLINS tomorrow.