Hear My Song
1991, R, 104 min. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Starring Ned Beatty, Adrian Dunbar, Shirley-Anne Field, Tara Fitzgerald, William Hootkins, David McCallum.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 21, 1992
Hear My Song is a beguiling little treat that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. On paper it doesn't sound like much. Stoked by hefty doses of blarney and bluster this Irish/British production's charms lie in its telling. Midway through the tale, the central character, Micky (Dunbar), declares that he's in the middle of a shaggy dog story (he's leading an unwanted cow through the countryside past a peacock at the time). The story is loosely based on the actual life of famed Irish tenor Josef Locke, who fled England in the 1950s to avoid arrest for tax evasion. Over the years many romantic myths sprang up around this figure whose singing could make women cry. Micky is a two-bit concert promoter with dreams of becoming an impresario. He books acts into a bombed-out old music hall that has aspirations of being a nightclub. With nimble grace, he fends off irate creditors, engages questionable entertainers like Franc Cinatra and, generally, does whatever it takes to keep his club afloat. His luscious girlfriend Nancy (Fitzgerald) is peeved with him because he can't say those magic words: I love you. But he inhabits an amiably slimy world of promoters and their sidekicks whose lips speak exclusively in half-truths. But “stick with me, baby,” he tells Nancy, “and someday you'll be farting through silk.” After Micky books “Mr. X” (is he or isn't he Josef Locke?) the ensuing debacle in which Mr. X mauls Locke's jilted beauty queen paramour, Miss Dairy Goodness (who happens to also be Nancy's mother), Micky embarks on a quest/pub crawl through the hills of Ireland in search of the real Locke in order to salvage his reputation and win back his girl. Cherchez la femme -- even in a shaggy dog story. Micky's hunt hooks him up with an old buddy, another promoter, as they journey off into leprauchaun country and engage in at least one scene that could be lifted straight out of a John Ford comedy. Locke turns out to be Ned Beatty, who has his own band of merry men who protect him from the taxman. And the chief taxman, still on his case after some 30-odd years, turns out to be a very weathered-looking David McCallum. Debut feature film director and co-scripter, Chelsom, along with star and co-scripter, Dunbar, have turned in an unexpected delight that's both breezy and realistic, freewheeling and focused, joyful and honest. It's quick, funny, sly and endearing.