Dvd

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

In a rather strong week of re­leases, the masochist in DVD Let­ter­box emerged. Do I de­liver my an­nual “What on earth is Al Pa­cino think­ing?” tirade or the an­nual “What the hell has hap­pened to Hugh Grant?” lament.

I made the mis­take of putting Grant’s latest fea­ture, The Re­write (M, Road­show, 107 min, $29.95), into my DVD player. It re­unites Grant with Marc Lawrence, the writer-di­rec­tor of Two Weeks No­tice, Mu­sic and Lyrics and Did You Hear About the Mor­gans?, and feels like their last hur­rah.

Grant plays a spoilt, Os­car-win­ning screen­writer, Keith Michaels, now lost in LA, who in des­per­a­tion takes a job teach­ing screen­writ­ing at a far-flung, cliquey univer­sity. He’s a bumbling scoundrel who chooses his stu­dents based on the al­lure of their Face­book photos. He soon puts the cam­pus hi­er­ar­chy (in­clud­ing Ali­son Jan­ney and JK Sim­mons) off­side, un­til Marisa Tomei’s en­trance as an older stu­dent, Holly, and their in­evitable at­trac­tion turns the bad guy around.

The Re­write is a mi­nor en­ter­tain­ment en­livened by easy per­for­mances from a sea­soned cast (and ter­rific young Aussie Bella Heath­cote). The di­a­logue be­gins quite sharply, with Grant’s trade­mark daffi­ness cen­tral to amus­ing en­coun­ters at an air­port and a wine and cheese night. But The Re­write can’t main­tain the bite as it trans­forms into a sweet and sound tale of Keith’s re­demp­tion.

Ad­mit­tedly, it is a much bet­ter film for Grant’s pres­ence — and it helps that I adore Tomei — although one can’t help but feel his twin­kle-eyed stam­mer schtick is, at age 55, com­ing to the end of its nat­u­ral life. Although we’ve said that for a decade.

Pa­cino has more cred­its in the bank than Grant, or in­deed al­most any ac­tor, although he’s nearly spent them. On the sur­face, Danny Collins (M, Road­show, 102 min, $29.95) looked like another dud, or at least in­dul­gence. He stars as an age­ing singer and, un­like Meryl Streep’s Ricki and the Flash, it wasn’t re­leased in cine­mas de­spite its broader cast and the pedi­gree of its de­but di­rec­tor, Dan Fo­gel­man, whose screen­play cred­its in­clude Cars, Tan­gled and Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Danny Collins isn’t a dud if you can over­look its cyn­i­cism as a piece pitched squarely at melan­choly baby boomers.

Pa­cino plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter, a mix of Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart, slowly clos­ing his life, dis­il­lu­sioned by showbiz while still indulging in its ex­cesses. Then his man­ager un­earths a let­ter to Danny writ­ten 40 years ago by John Len­non as a cau­tion and en­cour­age­ment (it is based on a true story about Bri­tish folk singer Steve Til­ston).

It sparks Danny’s quest for re­demp­tion and a search for his es­tranged son (Bobby Can­navale). Pa­cino is re­served, his sup­port cast, in­clud­ing Christo­pher Plum­mer and An­nette Ben­ing, is good with lim­ited ma­te­rial, and the Len­non-heavy sound­track is a bonus. So I’ll raincheck the tirade and the lament.

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