A caption at the beginning of writer-director Dan Fogelman’s cliche-riddled yet uproarious comedy reveals there is a germ of fact buried beneath the tears and cloying sentiment.
‘The following is kind of based on a true story. A little bit.’
The seed of Fogelman’s script was British folk singer Steve Tilston, who received a supportive fan letter from John Lennon, more than 25 years after the death of the former Beatle.
The handwritten missive, penned in 1971, advised the then 21-year-old Tilston to cling to his dreams because ‘being rich doesn’t change your experience in the way you think’.
Lennon added his telephone number and invited Tilston to call for advice.
Fogelman repurposes this cruel twist of fate as the catalyst for an ageing singer-songwriter’s belated redemption in Danny Collins. Al Pacino delivers a show-stopping turn as the irascible showman of the title, who sacrificed his artistic integrity years ago at the altar of commercial success.
Al Pacino delivers a show-stopping turn as the irascible showman of the title, who sacrificed his artistic integrity years ago at the altar of commercial success
For a birthday present, straight-talking manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) presents Danny with a note from Lennon that makes the singer-songwriter realise he has squandered his talent.
So he ditches his trophy girlfriend (Katarina Cas), cancels the remaining dates of a greatest hits tour and heads for the nearest Hilton to rediscover his artistic mojo.
Thus Danny begins to compose songs again and he summons the courage to rebuild bridges to his estranged and embittered son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), who has a pregnant wife (Jennifer Garner) and a needy daughter (Giselle Eisenberg) to protect from celebrity-tainted ghosts of the past.
Danny Collins strums a familiar tune and as existential crises go, the lead character’s is relatively brief and painless. Fogelman’s picture is a guilty pleasure: a slick cover version of previous journeys of self-discovery that were undoubtedly more soulful but seldom more entertaining.