July 5, 2015

Danny Collins

Dan Fogelman, 2015
Danny Collins is a fictional story based one really interesting real life story. In real life a folk singer named Steve Tilston gave an interview to ZigZag magazine where he described his fear of wealth and the effect it can have on your artistry. John Lennon and Yoko Ono responded to the interview with a handwritten letter where they said "Being rich doesn't change your experience in the way you think”. Tilston was never aware of the letter until a collector approached him with it in 2005. Instead of Fogelman basing the entire movie off of this letter, which some filmmakers would certainly attempt to do, he uses it as a platform for the whole Danny Collins story. It's interesting to think of how influential receiving that letter would have been to Steve Tilston. The letter was written in 1971, during the peak time of Lennon's influence. A musician receiving a letter from him back then would have probably been as inspring as being handed a letter from the President. Maybe more inspiring, seeing as there is an actual connection. Lennon read the interview and felt motivated, obligated to provide a response. The culprit guilty of hoarding the letter is fittingly played by comedian Nick Offerman, who comes off as a snarky beat writer with an annoying chuckle.

Al Pacino has unarguably and notoriously reached a point in his career where he is often a working caricature of himself. The whole "hoo hah" Pacino, the guy with the raspy screaming, the unpredictable octave and decibel changes. It's all kind of excusable, being one of the few actors who get a pass because they have long ago cemented their legacy. But Danny Collins is kind of perfect for the modern day Pacino. He is able to channel that caricature Pacino into his Danny character. Danny is a tired man, past his prime, at a reflective point in his career. He realizes that he himself has become a caricature of his former self, almost like Elvis in the latter years. The Danny Collins character is clearly a nod to Neil Diamond with more anguish. Pacino probably won't get much attention Oscar-time, but he is the perfect guy for the Collins role. Slightly overweight, ridiculous attire. It's actually kind of hard to picture anyone else playing him. The Danny Collins character is not necessarily a "good guy". He's a complicated character. He's selfish but self-conscious. Charming but lonely. Prosperous but generous. Inebriated but trying to kick the habits.

There are moments in the film that clutch your heart. The family conflict feels authentic. Bobby Cannavale is really responsible for the weight of all of the family moments, and continues to prove he's one of the more talented working actors out there. Even though he appears to let Danny off the hook a bit easily, his character keeps the story moving forward and continues to be conflicted with his father up until the final moments of the film. Cannavale and Jennifer Garner have chemistry, and the whole dynamic with their hyperactive daughter works really well. The film could definitely be considered a character study but it's also a breakdown story. Danny has been ignoring real life problems for a very long time. He realizes that no matter how much he insulates himself with wealth and material objects, at some point he's going to have to pay the piper.  He is able to gain a moment of clarity and realize how alone he actually is at his age, even with all of the hanger-onners and leaches that surround him. Nothing is more scary than growing elderly and dying alone. And it doesn't matter how much money you have.

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