Sinatra-The Main Event was broadcast live from Madison Square Garden by ABC in 1974. Frank Sinatra was in a boxing ring, and the venue was packed full of fans and fellow celebrities. During his lifetime, Sinatra was more than just a crooner, not just an actor, nor a comedian. He was all those things, to be sure, but Sinatra was style. A highly refined style that he carried off with charm and ease. Maybe that is is why his legacy has endured for so long. That is not to belittle the songs, their lyrics or melodies, but a decent singer with a wide vocal range could do decently with those songs (how else do you explain Michael Bublé?). Sinatra was his own brand, and he owned it like nobody else.
That is why the many imitators, at the height of his career, or impersonators, nowadays, who are trying to keep the image alive years after his death don’t always connect. Therefore, it is a double whammy surprise when character actor Robert Davi is a soulful singer in his own right but understands the intangible appeal of a larger than life figure such as Sinatra. So much so, that to commemorate Sinatra’s 100th birthday, Robert Davi wants to re-create The Main Event, with stars such as Adele, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, and Justin Timberlake.
The documentary Davi’s Way chronicles Davi’s attempts to make this show happen. It also goes deep into Davi’s early life, so the audience understands his love of singing. While pursuing acting, Davi would sing (thus his character belts out in The Goonies) and states he that when he is not singing, he is neglecting his true self. This grounds Davi’s epic-sized dreams for The Main Event with a sweet reverence and earnestness that is very important to the movie.
“…to commemorate Sinatra’s 100th birthday, Robert Davi wants to re-create The Main Event…”
See, Davi’s Way is very much a warts-and-all documentary, with Davi coming off as quite the prick on several occasions. Stevie Guttman is an aspiring actor, who works as a waiter, and gets the job as Davi’s assistant through a mutual friend. Davi, as most stars do, has specific demands for the backstage rooms of the venues he is performing. Guttman needs to ensure that tea with honey is always available, the humidifier has time to work before Davi, things like that. While Guttman does not always get things right, he appears to be trying, but Davi continually belittles and demeans him. In front of an audience, Davi calls out Guttman as a “fake assistant… who is never around if the cameras are off.” Davi even goes so far to demand that Guttman change how he dresses, as it is, from Davi’s point of view, too similar to how Davi dresses.
Absurdisms like this happen a lot, and it fundamentally hinders the proposed show. Producer, of both Davi’s Way and the tribute event, Danny A. Abeckaser has a meeting with Davi. It is discovered that Davi was under the presumption that Abeckaser was handling all of the behind the scenes things, such as what stars to get, booking the venue, and promotion. Therefore, when Davi is asked about his take on all this, it is not a great first conversation.
Davi’s family is also put through such off-putting actions. He has three daughters, Frani, Arianna, and Isabella, and his only son, Nick. Robert Davi believes that because of all the females surrounding Nick, that he needs to be less harsh and more praiseworthy of his son, at one point essentially calling him the perfect son, with no bad habits at all. When called out on this hypocrisy, as he can barely even say I love you to his daughters, he stumbles and stammers a half-hearted explanation.
“Davi’s drive to see it happen is what keeps the audience engaged…”
That is a lot of assholish behavior by one man to put with for 90 minutes, or so. However, somehow, throughout it all, no matter how mean his actions might seem, Davi remains a charismatic and driven person, that the audience wants to see succeed. It helps that he is prone to self-reflection and does atone for his mistakes, sometimes months after the offending incident might have happened.
After a massively falling out, he offers Guttman a hat as a present. He agrees with Arianna being in the show. These affectionate signs make Davi more palatable and that he is not afraid to be himself with the cameras always on him is brave.
Whether or not Davi’s tribute to Sinatra is a success is not the point of the Davi’s Way at all. It is a documentary that shows the passion one entertainer has for one of the most iconic singers of all time. Davi’s drive to see it happen is what keeps the audience engaged, and the discovery of his singing voice is worth the time to watch the movie all on its own.
Davi’s Way (2018) Directed by Tom Donahue. Starring Robert Davi, Stevie Guttman, Danny A. Abeckaser, Ilan Arboleda, Arianna Davi, Richard Donner, Quincy Jones, Robin Leach.
7 Gummi Bears (out of 10 stars)