Looking into Danny Collins Tangled Music Career, A Movie Review

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)


Danny Collins is one of those films that looks at how tough life is for some musicians who are groomed by commercial success and who seek to escape from its trappings. Before they got their big break, some might have had an idea in what direction they wanted to go with for expressing themselves, but when they broke into the industry, the producers see something else. Just like Begin Again, just what some musicians can become, namely in what Dave Kohl (Gretta’s musician boyfriend) became, may well be their own beasts of burden.

Dan Fogelman (Cars, Tangled) wrote a very thoughtful screenplay that certainly explores the difficulties in starting anew. Danny Collins (nicely played by Al Pacino) finally receives a letter from John Lennon decades later as a gift by his long-time manager Frank, (excellently played by Christopher Plummer), and if he read it sooner than later, maybe his career would have gone to different places. He is a commercial success, but was that what he really wanted?

This film sees him trying to clean up his life, and it’s those moments where we see a soulful performance by Pacino who channels the stardom that Rod Stewart hit at his prime, but yet who needs to climb down from that high horse to be more introspective like Bob Dylan. There’s even some moments in his life which seem like Tom Jones. It’s those hits from long ago that defines him. Fogelman also directs this film, and he certainly hits the high notes of familiarity in how fickle an industry is at how it treats its stars, especially when their troubles become news.


This film looks at Collins trying to write the type of music he loves. He was inspired by the messages John Lennon inserted into his music, and had he have received that letter of advice at the right time and phoned him, he might have had a more self rewarding career. This movie is inspired on a real life incident where British musician Steve Tilston never received the letter from Lennon. The message was the same, and in what makes this film heartfelt is more with how Collins tries to reinvent himself. He even tries to find true love which is very funny to see.

In the real life story that this film takes its inspiration from, Tilston found his own measure of success. He got to make the kind of music he really wanted. The family problems he faced that this film focuses on never existed. In what Fogelman made up for a plot, the story would not have been as poignant. To see strong emotional bonds being created elevates this tale to a level that shows that careers matters not. It’s those close relationships that matter, and to see Collins find his family again is what gives this movie that special heart. Despite being a musician first, what this singer knows second is that of a careful observer of life. Just what he recognizes as important is what film goers will leave with, smiling.

After all, isn’t that what John Lennon’s personal style of music is about? This film celebrates that just as much as the real life story it takes its inspiration from.

3½ Stars out of 5

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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