Superstars aren't allowed to change. Even the fans who love them insist they be dipped in wax: no new songs, no new attitude, and certainly no new look. Such is the "kind of based on a true story a little bit" premise of Danny Collins
, a charmer with Al Pacino as a megawatt singer who sells out stadiums but has calcified into a caricature. Pacino plays him as delusionally vain. Danny's accepted selling out — who wouldn't? — until his manager (Christopher Plummer) presents him with a letter John Lennon wrote decades ago urging Danny to "stay true to yourself." Talk about a from-the-grave guilt trip. Danny Collins
is a redemption movie in the skeptical key of Jerry Maguire
. Our decadent hero decides to fix himself in the first act. The rest of the film is him realizing how hard it'll be to keep living right -- and that maybe he doesn't have the moral clout to manage it. Danny jets off to Jersey in his private plane, checks into a modest hotel, and stuffs a grand piano into a room so cramped he has no choice but to sit down at the stool and compose.
In a way, Danny Collins
is allowing Al Pacino to do the same thing. The great Seventies talent has "hoo-ah!"–ed through recent decades, cranking out variations on his greatest hits. This movie is a narrow character piece that shows Pacino wrestling to reveal layers in a man who's worried he might actually be hollow. He and Fogelman string together dozens of small, perfect moments. Meanwhile, Bobby Cannavale, playing Danny's estranged son, comes close to out-acting Pacino, who proves willing to share the mic.