Time Out says
Al Pacino as a cheesy crooner? It sounds all wrong, but this breezy, lightweight comedy-drama just about works
Al Pacino’s done so much capital-A Acting over the last 25 years, it’s odd to see him taking it down a notch, digging deep – often with actual subtlety – into a rich role with hidden depths. Not that his character is exactly a wallflower. In a funny introduction, we see Danny Collins as a young, petrified folk singer in 1971 getting interviewed for a rock magazine. Cut to present day, and paunchy Danny (Pacino) is a cheesy Rod Stewart-like icon about to release his third greatest-hits collection and crooning his big sing-along number ‘Hey, Baby Doll’ to an audience of screaming grandmas.
This part is perfect for Pacino, a performer who, despite his genius, hasn’t been able to shake off a certain dead-eyed exhaustion lately. Danny has a palatial home and a gold-digging girlfriend half his age, but he’s practically a zombie at his surprise birthday party until his devoted longtime manager (Christopher Plummer, excellent) gives him a framed letter from John Lennon. Unknown to Danny, Lennon tried to send him the letter, containing a warning about the corrupting effects of fame, back in 1971. (This bit is based on the real-life story of English folk musician Steve Tilston). Chastened, Danny sets out to rediscover his passion in a slightly cutesy plot scored to several late-period John Lennon songs (though not, curiously, ‘Starting Over’).
For most of its running time, the film checks into a Hilton hotel in suburban New Jersey as Danny tries to reconnect with his estranged grown-up son (Bobby Cannavale, stealing the film with his gruff sincerity), who has a daughter with ADHD. Danny also starts a flirtation with the hotel’s chirpy desk manager (Annette Bening) – an ‘age-appropriate’ love interest in our hero’s words. You think you know where this is going, but it’s a pleasure to see director Dan Fogelman slow down the flow, kicking around life’s harsh turns with tenderness.
Cast and crew