Available on DVD and Blu-ray Mon 5 Oct 2015
Dan Fogelman / USA / 2015 / 106 mins
Al Pacino doesn’t do films anymore – he makes personal appearances. The intensity of his 70s oeuvre is long gone, and today he’s the sort of chap who does “Audiences” at the Glasgow Hydro.
That’s not much different to his latest character, Danny Collins, a singer-songwriter who traded early promise for an easy life playing the hits on the stadium circuit. Autobiographical? Not quite. The only surprise here is that it’s actually based on the story of Steve Tilston, a folk singer who discovered, years after it had gone astray, that John Lennon had written him a letter of encouragement.
In Dan Fogelman’s film, Lennon’s letter is the catalyst for a journey of self-discovery. Danny decamps to a motel with a baby grand piano while attempting to win over the son he abandoned (Bobby Cannavale), but any chance of an intense character study goes out the window as soon as Pacino cracks his devilish grin.
The film plays out as a benign version of I’m Alan Partridge, where the motel isn’t the site of a mental breakdown, but another setting for Al to strike the same notes he’s been playing for years. Danny flirts with the dowdy hotel manager (Annette Bening) and matchmakes for a receptionist and valet, which is all very warm and fuzzy, but not a version of the truth anyone outside of Hollywood would recognise.
Pacino is watchable as always – with charisma like that, he can’t be dull. The reason Danny Collins doesn’t work is Fogelman’s reluctance to push his leading man into confessional territory. Less of the “An Audience with” approach, and this might have justified the career lows of recent years: a stripped down acoustic set after years of showboating. As is, Danny Collins wastes a once-great talent – and our time.