Danny Collins (2015)

★★★ / 👍

In synopsis, Danny Collins sounds like it could go very wrong indeed. It’s basically a small-scale version of Crazy Heart, built around a legendarily larger-than-life actor (who can’t actually sing), playing a version of himself struggling with irrelevance and late-career regret. Despite the potential for disaster, I enjoyed this film far more than I expected to.

There’s no doubt this is Pacino’s movie—and the best performance I’ve seen him give in well over a decade—but it’s much more of an ensemble cast than the one-man show (or Pacino/Bening two-hander) I’d assumed it would be. Bobby Cannavale in particular is interesting enough to make me idly wonder what the film would have looked like if it had been built around him, with Pacino in the supporting role. Likewise, I thought Jennifer Garner did better work in her first scene here than in the entirety of Dallas Buyers Club, but that may be a matter of the aforementioned low expectations (and my general indifference to Garner).

The script isn’t nearly as sentimental as I’d feared, which is a big plus, particularly given how frequently the film’s overall approach crosses over from straightforward to on-the-nose. (The constant John Lennon tracks are more distracting than illuminating.) I never really believed the “patter” between Pacino and Bening, but I wanted to, and with a movie like this that surely has to count for something.