A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Danny Collins, though it has its share of humor, also deals with some pretty serious/heavy themes, including a father's abandonment of his son, a potentially terminal illness, infidelity, an identity crisis, and one man's reckoning of the professional and personal decisions that have affected the course of his life. There's also some innuendo and nudity -- a woman is shown in the bathroom, breasts bared and pubic area covered in shaving cream -- and scenes of adult drinking and drug use (in one scene, a child wanders in right after someone snorts a line of cocaine). Frequent but not constant strong language includes "s--t"and "f--k."
What's the story?
Musician Danny Collins (Al Pacino) seems to have it all: He's rich, he's famous, and he still attracts fans who've been loyal to him through the decades. But they all seem to want Danny to just play his greatest hits, including songs written by others. When he was young, this wasn't the career he'd imagined having; an earnest songwriter with a talent for authentic lyrics, Danny struggled with the idea of success, a worry he shared with a music magazine writer. Unbeknownst to Danny, his idol, John Lennon, read the interview and wrote Danny a letter, suggesting he give him a call. But Danny didn't get the note for decades -- and he wonders now whether he would have gone down a different path musically and personally (he abandoned his only son, now a man with a family that Danny longs to get to know) had he received it. A retreat to a Jersey hotel to work on new music -- and the friendship of an astute and empathetic hotel manager (Annette Bening) -- may provide him with the answers he's seeking.
Is it any good?
For so many reasons, DANNY COLLINS shouldn't work. First, there's the plot, which, despite an intriguing premise, doesn't always feel original. And then there's the subplot about the son Danny abandoned, which distracts from the aforementioned intriguing premise and takes the story in a different direction. There are also plenty of cliches: Danny's rock-star lifestyle reads like a paint-by-numbers confection (wild parties, booze, drugs).
And yet, Danny Collins works, grounded by Pacino's textured, layered performance. The actor, who's brilliant but has been accused of gilding the lily sometimes, turns in a bravura portrayal that doesn't lean on the usual tricks. His Danny seems like a person we know, or whom we'd like to know, no matter how flawed or short-sighted he can be. His vulnerability is appealing. Same for Bobby Cannavale, who grounds his role as Danny's estranged son in true accessibility. Again, he feels like someone we know, or want to know. Frankly, the entire cast is fantastic, making more of a story that starts off promisingly but winds up in all-too-familiar places.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Danny Collins depicts drinking and drug use. Are they glamorized? Are there realistic consequences?
How is this movie different from -- or similar to -- other movies that deal with a professional crisis that turns personal? What do you think the end message is intended to be?
What's the significance of the John Lennon letter?
- In theaters: March 20, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 30, 2015
- Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner
- Director: Dan Fogelman
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, drug use and some nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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