Bobby and Ray

Tim Hardin was one of the finest singer-songwriters to come out of the sixties folk scene, but the only hit he ever had was written for him by Bobby Darin, “Simple Song of Freedom.” Hardin had previously helped revive Darin’s career, giving Darin his last hit when Darin copped Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” in 1967.
Now comes Kevin Spacey, who channels Bobby Darin in the new biopic “Across the Sea.” We saw the preview for “Across the Sea” at “Ray” the weekend before last and I look forward to seeing it. But “Ray” is the best biopic I have ever seen, certainly the best musical biopic ever made — not that the competition, at least in the latter category, is particularly strong.
Unlike most Hollywood productions, the dramatic high points in “Ray” are closely based on reality, as is the narrative thread in general. The story essentially has three prongs — music, adultery, and drugs. But for the uncanny recreation of Ray Charles on-camera by Jamie Foxx, the overall effect of the film is surprisingly downbeat.
I saw Charles perform in person several times and watching Foxx I was unaware of the fact that an actor was portraying him; it is as though Charles is portraying himself. I have never seen anything like it.
Spacey is taking the project of channeling Bobby Darin one step beyond his portrayal of Darin in the film, in the direction of “This is Spinal Tap” and its subsequent history. First came the brilliant 1984 mockumentary memorializing the career of rock’s loudest band; then came the Spinal Tap tour, making its most recent stop in 2001: “Spinal Tap goes on tour with Shure for one night only.”
In any event, don’t miss “Ray.” In the meantime, check out the Boston Globe’s review of Kevin Spacey’s impressive debut as Darin, fronting a big band and taking his Darin act on tour: “Spacey casts a convincing spell during Darin tribute.”

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