Friday, July 7, 2017

Danny Collins

Year 9, Day 188 - 7/7/17 - Movie #2,682

BEFORE: I know, this seems like an odd detour from the animation chain - I'll be back on animation tomorrow.   Bobby Cannavale carries over from "Chef".

As a preface to tonight's film about an older rockstar, I want to mention that I saw an episode of a show on cable called "Urban Myths", which related the (possibly true, who knows) story about Bob Dylan flying to London at the invitation of his friend, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.  Only, as the story goes, Dylan lost the address, or mixed up the address, or got turned around on the streets of London, and accidentally buzzed the wrong flat, as they say.  He asked if Dave was home, and Dave's wife said that he'd just stepped out, but invited his "friend Bob" in for tea, without recognizing the identity of the man with the fuzzy hair and the dark sunglasses.

The "Dave" who lived there was a different Dave (possibly a different Dave Stewart, after all the name's not that uncommon) and so the wrong Dave came home to find Bob Dylan sitting in his living room, playing some of his records and drinking tea with his wife.   You should try to catch this show, with actor Eddie Marsan really nailing the role of Dylan, the ambiguous way he tends to not really answer questions, and the way it portrays the totally British way of being embarrassed about things, and therefore avoiding delicate subject matter - so nobody involved talks about how odd it is that Bob Dylan just turned up in someone's apartment one day and just made himself at home.

It probably never happened, at least not that way, but it does make for a good story. (This is the TV series that sparked controversy by casting a white actor as Michael Jackson, in the story about him going on a road trip with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando, but don't hold that against this series.)

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Ricki and the Flash" (Movie #2,441)

THE PLOT: An aging rock star decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him from John Lennon. 

AFTER: I picked this film for the linking, but damn if it doesn't share at least two themes with "Chef", namely a successful person losing their creative mojo and going on a road trip to try and get it back, and then there's the motif of an absent father trying to re-connect with his son - only in this case the father hasn't ever met his adult son before, or his wife or daughter for that matter.  Anyway, the overarching theme this week seems to be something about redemption, or perhaps reconciliation with lost family.  We had Robin looking for an adoptive father in the "Lego Batman Movie", then Kubo searching for his father in "Kubo and the Two Strings", and Mowgli trying to re-join the village of men in "The Jungle Book".  Now an older rock star wants to connect with his son for the first time.  I'm considering this a follow-up to "Ricki and the Flash" because I remember seeing previews for both films at the same screening, and thinking they looked quite similar.

But Pacino's character, Danny Collins, is more in line with Barry Manilow, it seems, than a rocker like Mick Jagger.  (His song, "Hey Baby Doll" sounds an awful lot like "Sweet Caroline"...)  And therein lies another thematic connection to "Chef" - namely the question over whether a rock-star should just sing his greatest hits, or perform something different from the new album, which is very similar to a chef debating whether he should serve the expected food that everyone likes, or try to push his new, more creative cuisine.  As a concert-goer, my feeling is that a performer should only play the greatest hits, because who cares about the new stuff, but my thoughts on the matter may be a little biased, since I don't like much music made after 1990.  What usually results in concert, and perhaps in the food world also, is about 90% greatest hits and 10% new material. (Hey, we all need bathroom breaks every so often...)

The catalyst for changing a man's life here is this letter from John Lennon, supposedly written in 1971 and then sent to Collins in care of a magazine editor, who decided to keep the letter as a collector's item.  This happened in real life to a man named Steve Tilston, who mentioned Lennon in an interview in ZigZag magazine, and also expressed a fear that wealth and fame might hurt his songwriting skills.  Lennon's letter was intended to assure him that being rich doesn't change the way one thinks, and that the only advantage to being rich is that you don't have to worry about money. Umm, yeah, thanks for clearing that up, John Lennon - thankfully the fictional letter in the film is a little more insightful, as fictional Lennon goes on to say that a person's music can't be corrupted by others, only Danny could do that to himself.  (OK, mission accomplished.) Bear in mind that Lennon was fairly rich when he sang "Imagine no possessions."  Yeah, that's probably easier for someone with Beatles money.

But the letter does start Danny thinking about his life, and what he could have been, if only he'd received these words of wisdom 40 years earlier, when he should have. (Damn post office!)  Yeah, and Andrew Jackson wouldn't have fought the battle of New Orleans if they'd had text messaging back then.  There are no do-overs in life, you just have to make the best choices that you can and then live with the consequences.  But Danny decides to use his great wealth and resources to work his way into his son's life for the first time, and it does not go well at first.  (I think someone once sang that money "Can't Buy Me Love", but I'll be damned if I can remember who.)

Before long, Danny's living indefinitely at a Hilton hotel in New Jersey, composing songs again for the first time in years, trying to woo the hotel manager, and making continual attempts to win over his newfound family, most of which involve spending large amounts of money.  I'm not even sure that he should be allowed to succeed, because what does it say if he does?  That everyone has their price, and you can make up for a lifetime of neglect with enough cash and prizes?  Wouldn't it have sent a stronger message here if he learned that money doesn't solve everything, and sincerity and honesty and being a good grandpa went a lot further in the long run?  Yeah, I guess that does sound a bit ridiculous, but it would have been nice. 

Also starring Al Pacino (last seen in "Two for the Money"), Annette Bening (last seen in "Regarding Henry"), Jennifer Garner (last seen in "Mother's Day"), Christopher Plummer (last seen in "The Forger"), Katarina Cas (last seen in "The Wolf of Wall Street"), Giselle Eisenberg (last seen in "Sex Tape"), Melissa Benoist (last seen in "Patriots Day"), Josh Peck (last heard in "Ice Age: Collision Course"), Nick Offerman (last heard in "Sing"), Brian Thomas Smith, Scott Lawrence, Eric Michael Roy, Eric Lange, Don Was.

RATING: 5 out of 10 billboards

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