1. Arts & Entertainment

Review: 'Danny Collins' comeback story is Al Pacino's, too

Al Pacino turns in a terrific, restrained performance as a fading ’70s rock star in Danny Collins.
Al Pacino turns in a terrific, restrained performance as a fading ’70s rock star in Danny Collins.
Published Mar. 31, 2015

What a pleasure to see Al Pacino cut loose in Danny Collins, having fun acting again. Not that he hasn't enjoyed performing, but sitting through much of his past decade of movie work has been a chore.

Pacino is back in boisterous style, in a role that could be pitched as Scent of a Woman with sight. Playing the last hoo-rah of a fading '70s rock star, Pacino burns the screen as he hasn't in years, not like a flamethrower but the softer heat of a lighter lifted at a concert. He even sings a little, and it's sweeter to the ear than you'd think.

Not the first time we hear Danny, who doesn't seem interested in singing his biggest hit at another nostalgia rock show. Danny made a bundle off that song, living high and flighty in L.A. with arm candy half his age. A birthday gift from his manager (Christopher Plummer) shakes Danny to life: an undelivered, handwritten letter to him from John Lennon, advising him to remain true to himself and his music. Danny realizes he hasn't, but he will.

(The story is inspired by musician Steve Tilston, who did receive an encouraging letter from Lennon, but that's where similarities to the movie end.)

Abandoning his mansion, Danny moves into a Hyatt in New Jersey, with a baby grand for writing songs. But writer-director Dan Fogelman has more than one comeback in mind for Danny, and too many characters requiring triumphs of their own. His screenplay is overstuffed with a difficult pregnancy, cancer, ADHD, a recovering alcoholic, a budding romance, post-divorce blues — and that's just the supporting cast. Danny has enough problems, thank you very much.

Thing is, each of these narrative speed bumps is appreciated because the performances are so good. Annette Bening dials down her dazzle to a blush, playing the hotel manager Danny incessantly flirts with. Plummer makes the most of his nice change of pace. Jennifer Garner snaps off a few choice moments, while Bobby Cannavale as the son Danny never met may be Pacino's acting soulmate; their scenes together are fascinating to watch.

Danny Collins isn't the most artistic or surprising movie, and Fogelman's appropriation of Lennon's music to explain what's obvious gets stale. But it does contain a wonderful performance by Pacino, when it was debatable if we'd ever say that again. Whatever gets you through the night.

Contact Steve Persall at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.


  1. Yesterday• Arts & Entertainment
    Seeing the decorations at the Kresge house, a.k.a. the Oakdale Christmas House in St. Petersburg, has been a holiday tradition for many since it was first decorated in 1977. [Times (2009)]
    From neighborhood displays to theme parks, we’ve got lots to look at.
  2. Dr. Stanton Thomas, Curator of Collections and Exhibits for the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, inspects a newly acquired painting by world-renowned artist Kehinde Wiley entitled Leviathan Zodiac (The World Stage: Israel). The piece was purchased from the private collection of Blake Byrne, Los Angeles, with funds donated by the Collectors Circle for its 25th Anniversary with additional funds from James G. Sweeny. The painting a 2011, oil and gold enamel on canvas, will be presented for public display in January, 2020. [BOYZELL HOSEY  |  TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The celebrated artist’s work will be on display in St. Petersburg.
  3. Actor Danny Aiello is photographed in New York,  Friday, Oct. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) [RICHARD DREW  |  ASSOCIATED PRESS]
    He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”
  4. Susan Goldberg is editor in chief of National Geographic. [National Geographic]
    She wrote the introduction to the new photographic history ‘Women: The National Geographic Image Collection.’
  5. Biographies of Carrie Fisher, Joni Mitchell, Toni Morrison, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    Biographies of Carrie Fisher and Janis Joplin, a collection of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics and watercolors, quotations from Toni Morrison and Patti Smith’s road-trip memoir all shine.
  6. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has launched a campaign dubbed "Bead Free Bay" in an effort to keep beads out of Tampa Bay during the annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates.
    Tampa created a public education campaign to warn revelers —especially boaters — to protect the bay’s ecosystem from toxic beads.
  7. Lindsey Stirling will perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Dec. 20. [Cara Robbins]
    The superstar EDM-pop violinist brings her third annual holiday tour to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Dec. 20.
  8. The cast of "Floribama Shore," Season 3, which was shot in Pinellas County. [Courtesy of MTV]
    It’s probably not related to 'Floribama Shore’ filming in the St. Petersburg bar.
  9. Shakey Graves will open for the Lumineers at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on May 22. [Six Shooter Records]
    Catch up on today’s Tampa Bay concert announcements.
  10. Florida Orchestra music director and conductor Michael Francis, left, celebrates with his wife Cindy and their five-year-old daughter Annabella. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The conductor, who grew up British, has been performing in the U.S. since he was 16.