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"Danny Collins": A Borderline Self-Pitying Mea Culpa 

Wednesday, Mar 25 2015
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Semi-fresh on the heels of The Humbling, here is Al Pacino's second self-conscious portrait of the artist as an old man in as many months. Danny Collins reads as a borderline self-pitying mea culpa, allowing that perhaps the actor has strayed from the subtle and powerful work of his younger days. It's no stretch to see him as the titular pop star who went from a tunefully sensitive folk debut to coking up and crooning Barry Manilow-style schmaltz to old ladies gnawing on licorice in stadium front rows. This might have been prevented, had young Danny ever received that handwritten letter from John Lennon assuring him that money and fame wouldn't ruin him artistically, as only he could do that to himself. Another thing money won't do, says Danny himself, is buy redemption, but upon finally getting that letter as a gift from his manager (Christopher Plummer), he spends the movie opening hearts by opening his checkbook. Prominent beneficiaries include a meek hotel manager played by Annette Bening and an angry estranged son played by Bobby Cannavale, both in fine form. For a while writer-director Dan Fogelman's movie was called Imagine, and it gets as much mileage as possible from old Lennon songs, finally acknowledging over the closing credits that this lost-letter episode actually happened to British folk musician Steve Tilston — who seems more grounded, and more interesting, than the caricature that is Danny Collins. But point taken: Ah, what might have been. (JK)

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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