My husband and I ventured out to see “Danny Collins,” a movie we both waited several weeks to come to the theater. We both love Al Pacino. Actually, I just discovered him recently when I watched “Dog Day Afternoon” for the very first time (yeah, late bloomer in everything, including movies).
Al Pacino is a fabulous actor. He’s just got it all, looks, charm, natural humor. In the role of Danny Collins, he’s an aging superstar musician who has it all. Even at this stage of the game he’s singing to a packed house of adoring fans. (And, hey, Al Pacino can sing! The “hit” song “Sweet Baby Doll” is still stuck in my head). And at this stage of the game, along with the rock ‘n’ roll, sex and drugs are still a big part of Danny’s life.
It’s during a surprise birthday bash, when his friend/manager/confidante Frank Grubman (played by Christopher Plummer) gives him a gift — an undelivered John Lennon wrote to Danny Collins 40 years ago. Right then and there Danny starts reflecting on his life and thinking about making major changes. And the real push comes when he catches his girlfriend Sophie (Katarina Cas), who is supposed to be more than half his age, cheating. Though, ever the class act, Danny appears okay with it, encourages them to go back to what they were doing and that he’s leaving town indefinitely.
Danny goes out to find his grown son — who he never met (played by Bobby Cannavale) and lives in New Jersey. Danny checks into a hotel and makes it a temporary home — going as far as bringing a Steinway piano into the small room.
Immediately Danny starts falling for the hotel manager, Mary Sinclair, played by the ever beautiful Annette Bening. Mary is a younger woman, but closer to age-appropriate than Sophie was.
Mary is friendly, but not too impressed with Danny’s star status. She does note that her ex-husband was a big fan. Eventually they develop a strong friendship and Danny plans on making her his new girl.
Within a few days, Danny finds his son. His son is named Tom Donnelly. He took his mother’s name, for Danny was never in the picture. Tom Donnelly’s wife Samantha is played by Jennifer Garner. And Giselle Eisenberg is absolutely scrumptious as their little girl, Hope. Like her granddad, she can sing!
Danny tries to make up for lost time, but Tom won’t have it. Danny insists and even gets his granddaughter Hope into a school for children with ADHD, surpassing the 6-year waiting list.
By now Tom is warming up to his dad. Hope is told that Danny is her grandfather and things seem to be going on the right track. Meanwhile Danny’s been writing new music, which is different, more mellow, showing his growth. Mary likes the new song and agrees to let Danny take her to dinner if he plays it onstage.
Danny gets a gig in a small New Jersey night club. Everyone is there — his family, Mary and even the college kids he made friends with at the hotel. It’s more intimate and personal for Danny. He gets on stage and sits down at the piano to play his new song and the crowd starts screaming for his hit “Sweet Baby Doll.”
This moment reminded me, as a big music fan, of the story of Rick Nelson and his song “Garden Party.” No one wanted to hear his new songs, they were expecting “Hello Mary Lou.” In “Garden Party” there’s a reference to John Lennon when he sings, “Yoko brought a Walrus.” And throughout “Danny Collins” there is about 80 percent John Lennon songs used. It was definitely a powerful scene as Danny freaks out and goes with “Hey, Baby Doll” instead of his new song, then goes back stage to find Sophie with her boyfriend. She refers to Danny as her sugar daddy and they all start doing coke. Meanwhile Tom, Samantha and Hope go backstage. Hope screams “Grandpa!” and runs up to him, but once Tom sees what is going on, he immediately pulls Hope away from Danny. Once again Tom decides not to be in his father’s life.
I’ll end here because I was always taught not to give the ending of a movie. But if you want to laugh AND cry, go see this!