Ned Beatty won a golden globe nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his role as Irish tenor Josef Locke in this eager-to-please comedy. Beatty, who can be a vivid baddie (Network) or comic foil (Superman), has spent the last few years mired in movie crap (Switching Channels, Repossessed). So his finely shaded, deeply romantic performance as Locke is a unique and unexpected pleasure. Ditto the movie, which seemingly came out of nowhere.
Actually, the film is the brainchild of Peter Chelsom, a British actor turned writer and director who grew up in Blackpool, where Locke often performed until he fled to Ireland in the Fifties to avoid arrest for alleged tax evasion. Along with Adrian Dunbar, who plays concert promoter Micky O’Neill, Chelsom fashioned a script based on the Locke legend.
Micky is in trouble with his girl Nancy (Tara Fitzgerald) and her mother, Cathleen (Shirley-Anne Field). He had staged some concerts with a phony Locke, who seduced Cathleen, an old flame of the real Locke’s. To appease the ladies, Micky vows to find Locke and bring him back to London, even though the tenor would be arrested by Chief Constable Abbott (David McCallum).
Cinematographer Sue Gibson works magic with the Irish countryside, and Locke’s return is an occasion that brings out the ham in Beatty, whose performance is a joy. The mature passion of Beatty and Field dovetails nicely with the lusty grappling of Dunbar and Fitzgerald (two winning newcomers). Make no mistake, Chelsom shows no mercy in dishing out the blarney, much the way the returned Locke sings “Come Back to Sorrento” and “Goodbye” to the teary crowd at Micky’s nightclub (Beatty expertly lipsyncs the vocals of Vernon Midgley). Brimming with high spirits, Hear My Song bewitches away any reservations.