by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
This was my second viewing of Danny Collins. I saw it in theaters and reviewed it here on the site. Going back to the review really blew my mind for a couple of reasons: 1) I like the movie a lot more now than I did four years ago and 2) I watched movies very differently back then. I might be going through that Roger Ebert phase he had in the 2000s where he went easier on everything. I can barely get through re-reading my own 2015 review to be honest. It feels like it was written by a different, more persnickety person.
This is an “Isn’t it nice?” movie. What I mean is I like most of the cast and “Isn’t it nice to see them have space to act and remind you why you like their work?” What did you think of the movie, Rob? Do you want that Al Pacino birthday cake from the beginning as much as I do?
Rob: I have to say I was surprised reading your review as well, because Danny Collins struck me as an Adam Riske movie of the highest order. It’s light and effortless, full of charm and honest tugs on the heartstrings. It knows its genre and plays with convention when it gets the chance. It suggests complexity of character without beating you over the head with the tropes, instead allowing (as you mentioned) for the actors the live and breathe in their parts in a more naturalistic way. It’s so Movie. Is it necessarily great? Probably not. I joked to you offline that, while I wasn’t sure if I liked Danny Collins, it may also be the only movie I ever want to watch ever again. It’s just such a pleasant world to live in.
Scarface or Heat-type role. Al isn’t rubber-facing it or putting on an accent. He’s not pitching into extreme highs or lows. He’s just being Al, dancing around behind the bar and tossing limes into drinks like an old pro. All that patter between him and Christopher Plummer? I hope that’s how you and I are when we’re in our late seventies. I almost cheered when Al brags that his latest lady (Bening) is finally age-appropriate and Plummer replies, “Not really.” I love those throwaway moments. That and the little scene where Pacino and Cannavale are arguing about chicken soup. So good.
I was thinking a bit about the ways the film uses the framed John Lennon letter both as a simple narrative prop and as a kind of symbol of Collins’ failed potential. There are times where that gets obnoxious (doing coke lines off of it during his late-movie dip back into self destruction, for example), but I have to applaud the film for not driving that “storyline” (such as it is) into the ground. It’s there to serve as a suggestion of Collins’ best self, but there’s no mystery attached to it. We’re not searching for anything or coming to any revelations about what it really means. It’s simply a motivational tool that allows Collins to take risks and shift, fully-formed, into a new phase of his life. This could also be interpreted as a sign of the film’s limited ambition — its unwillingness to say anything “real” about celebrity or the creative arts — but I’d disagree that Danny Collins is about any of that to begin with.
Adam: Your Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark comparison is terrific. And yes, when we’re in our seventies, I’ll talk to your son about what a great guy you are because you send me cases of bottled water without a hitch. (Readers - this will only make sense if you watched Danny Collins very recently). I was so pumped to see Pacino and Plummer back together on-screen (The Insider reunion!). These dudes are such pros.
What did you think about the relapse moment Danny Collins has late in the film? It seemed arbitrary; like the film felt it had to include it. It makes no sense to me that an artist whose performed for as many decades as Danny Collins wouldn’t just start his set by saying “We’re gonna get to the hits, but I have a few new ones first. I hope you like them.” Instead he panics, goes straight into a “Sweet Caroline” (I mean “Hey, Baby Doll”) tailspin almost immediately and the next time we see him he’s snorting Tony Montana levels of coke. Also, how did Danny Collins get up to three Greatest Hits albums when he only sings one song? I get that Pacino can’t sing and the film does a mensch’s job trying to mask it but c’mon, man! Three Greatest Hits albums is Madonna level of success. Am I going crazy?
Anyway, none of this takes away from my enjoyment of Danny Collins’ quirks and charms (Side note: Remember Jennifer Garner’s off the cuff “Oh, fuck me” when she sees Collins at her door? Man, she is so good). My question to you is this: If you wrote a pop hit for Al to sing, what would it be called? Mine would be called “Buttermilk Biscuits.” I don’t know why; it just seems like a phrase that Al would enjoy singing.
Adam: Haha, what? “Buttermilk Biscuits?” That’s funny. Al song? Hmmmm. A cover of “I Heard A Rumor” by Bananarama. Just because I want him to speak-sing the title like when he was in Two for the Money and said, “You’re a MUTANT!”
I think this column is only for us at this point. Sorry everyone else.
Before we wrap:
1. How long do you think Josh Peck and Melissa Benoist dated in the world of this movie? Were they a couple meant to last? Don’t you want to sing to her because she’s so adorable? I do. I would sing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by The Beach Boys but I would change it to “Wouldn’t It Benoist?” I wonder why I’m single sometimes. This isn’t one of them.
2. I don’t usually love Annette Bening, but isn’t she good in this? I really enjoyed her scenes with Pacino. I feel like she knows how to handle these ‘70s rapscallions because she’s married to Dick Tracy (Bening: “Danny Collins, don’t you think you’ve drunk enough? Al: “I’m BIG BOY CAPRICE!” Director: “Cut!”). I love when she shows Danny Collins a picture of her daughter and he goes “Oh yeah” and she quips “Well, don’t say it like that.”
1. I wrote almost an entire paragraph about how I wanted a separate movie with Peck and Benoist telling their kids Danny Collins stories. I cut it because I thought this column might be for other people, but I’m glad it ended up being just for us. My hope is that they go the distance. She is just the cutest. She’s definitely the kind of hotel clerk who will give you a late checkout if you ask nicely.
2. Everyone is good in this movie. Pacino makes everyone comfortable and allows them to do their best work. Every producer and executive in Hollywood having script issues on a project needs to consider just writing Danny Collins into the movie. Is Pacino in enough of a “fuck it” phase that he’ll do half a day on anything? Maybe not, but it’s worth a shot.
That’s a big Mark Ahn for Danny Collins. What are we doing next week?
Adam: Mark Ahn for me too. Next week is March Discoveries, new-to-us movies we really enjoyed. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.