Al Pacino plays the titular character, an ageing musician who has a mid-life crisis about 30 years too late when he realises he’s just singing the same songs over and over again and hasn’t done anything genuinely creative in decades. When his manager finds a letter written to him by his idol, John Lennon (peculiarly, several months younger than Pacino), he decides to get in touch with the son he’s never met and try and write a song again.
Conspicuously absent from this film is music and performance, most probably down to Pacino’s apparent lack of proficiency in this field. He performs one song at the start, where the music all-but drowns out the vocals, then doesn’t perform another for the rest of the film. He performs bits of a newly-written song at one point, where he barely growls out the simple melody, which would render the character totally implausible were it not for the existence of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. The soundtrack is instead supplied from the John Lennon back catalogue, much to my co-goblin Dan’s disgust.
But this isn’t really a film about music, it’s about Collins and his newfound family. When he turns his back on his old life he dumps his wife-to-be, embarrassed that’s she’s some 50 years his junior, before hitting on a hotel manager much closer to his age, only 25 years younger than him.
This is a fairly formulaic film, but it works mainly due to Pacino’s enduring appeal. In spite of his character’s flaws he has an infectious personality, not a hundred miles from Johnny in Frankie and Johnny – Pacino’s best romantic role. The rest of the cast are also strong, including young newcomer Giselle Eisenberg as Danny’s hyperactive granddaughter. The comedy is gentle, rather than side-splitting, which isn’t quite enough to make up for the straightforwardness of the plot. It would be great if Pacino could re-capture the creativity he had 30 years ago.