Disclaimer: This week in all probability you would be getting Mad at some Velvets around you and hence miss this small gem. Having a limited release in India, this film deserves some love, especially if you are a fan of its leading actor like me.
A celebrated rockstar, who spends his entire life in arc lights, with no dearth of money, girls and drugs around him, suddenly has a moment of epiphany and goes on a path of redemption, making up to his close ones he had forsaken all his life.
Sounds familiar? Well I don’t deny. Hollywood has told this story many times before. Just that this time there is an Alfred ‘effing’ Pacino at the helm of affairs. And believe it or not, even at seventy five his charisma is intact. With that disarming smile and exuberant swagger, he can still charm his way into your hearts.
Based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tiltson who received a letter from John Lennon, 34 years after it was written for him, inspiring him to embark on a new journey, the movie is a simple story told with a lot of heart. Directed by debutante Dan Fogelman (who wrote ‘Tangled’ & ‘Cars’), the film deals with a range of issues from familial ties to futility of materialistic pursuits. Aided by some quick-witted humour and soulful music (nine of the tracks used in the background are from Lennon’s post-Beatles career), what majorly works in the film’s favour is ensemble cast. Though the film starts as Pacino’s journey to find his way back to life, the people he meets on the way soon make you care enough for them too.
First there is Pacino’s ‘The Insider’ co-star Christopher Plummer, who fills up for the wise-old-friend; the one who always gives the right advice in the most adorably acerbic ways possible, knowing fully well they are falling on deaf ears. Then there is the estranged family comprising of a 40 year old son (Bobby Cannavale) leading a ‘normal’ life, an understanding daughter-in-law (Jennifer Garner) torn between a stubborn husband and his equally stubborn father besides a hyperactive grand daughter (Giselle Eisenberg) suffering from a rare disorder.
But the movie’s best moments are between Pacino and Annette Bening trying to “find their pattern” as she continues to shoot down every dinner request he makes to her, till the very end. Here is one of those many futile attempts!
Though mawkish in parts, what keeps the movie going is the unpredictability of its screenplay. Look out for the scene where Pacino finds out his ‘young’ girlfriend sleeping with someone else in his bedroom. Or when, in a rather tense situation, he coolly explains to his son how one can know if the doctor is bringing a ‘good news’ or a ‘bad news’ from the way he calls their names. Through Danny Collins, Fogelman gives a character that leaves us with a lot to ponder about without ever getting preachy. As his manager Frank (Plummer) puts in one scene ” Danny has a good heart. It is just shoved somewhere up his a*** “.
The movie did appear slightly meta to me, as I saw a celebrity gone astray with his choices off-late, resurrect himself with a role that, as Lennon writes in his letter, “stayed true to his craft”. If nothing else, watch the film for Pacino as he delivers one of his most subtle and nuanced performances in a very long time. Indeed, Al is well !