Projections - Movie Reviews

Beyond the Sea
Beyond the Sea
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Bob Hoskins, Caroline Aaron, John Goodman, William Ullrich and Kate Bosworth

Contrived as a film within a film, Kevin Spacey’s biopic of Bobby Darin is kind of finger snapping, like the memorable tune “Mack The Knife” and surreal in places as well. Spacey doesn’t do any lip-syncing of the thin, receding coiffed man who became a star in the 50's and would have a hippie rebirth in the early 70's.Beyond the Sea is Spacey’s labor of love and eventually gets bogged down with some of the genre’s cliches, but this “self-portrait” (similar to Cole Porter’s life in De-Lovely) is mostly refreshing thanks to the enthusiasm Spacey brings to the nightclub crooner who won two Grammys and was nominated for an Oscar.

How a song and dance number is interrupted in the opening scene shows the important exchanges between Darin and his younger self, a winsome William Ullrich, that work to hold the movie together. The script collaborated by Spacey and Lewis Colick, let the truth of a physically fragile child take hold as his mother Polly (Brenda Blethyn) gets him interested in music. She has a plan for him to be bigger than Sinatra and young Walden Robert Cassotto becomes Bobby Darin as his passion for performing has him living past his 15th birthday. A heart condition from rheumatic fever has his projected life to end by 16.

His brash, cocky, arrogant self emerges as a showman and he has support from those like sister Nina (Caroline Aaron), brother in law (Bob Hoskins) and a manager “Boom-Boom” (John Goodman) who sometimes battles with Bobby’s goals; Bobby above all wants to play the Copacabana. He starts to hit his stride when he shoots at film stardom and is cast opposite very cute Sandra Dee (Gidget herself), a sweet Kate Bosworth (Win A Date With Tad Hamilton). They’ll marry and have a son, against the wishes of Sandy’s possessive mother (Greta Scacchi) who wanted Sandra to pursue Rock Hudson.

Spacey filmed exclusively in Berlin, and does noticeably solid work with his lenser and some elaborate designs as the big band standards add to Darin’s repertoire of fan favorites like “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.” The actor’s persistence pays off even as the story strains when Bobby’s health problem resurfaces after marital difficulties with Sandra (she constantly strikes at him by reminding him that his toupee is on crooked). He also becomes very politically active in the era of Bobby Kennedy. What’s surprising is how good Spacey is as a vocalist and dancer and the film jokingly gets by the age difference (Spacey is 45 and plays a man who lived only till he was 37).

Bosworth isn’t quite as affecting as she looks, but is able to let Spacey shine as reality gives way to fantasy and gets to the heart of “what you hear is what you see.” Better are later moments with a brassy, finally revelatory Nina, as she is involved in the film’s big twist. The climax with the precocious child Darin locates the heart of Beyond the Sea, a lively nod to the un-legendary Darin, who has grabbed the microphone like a moonbeam and did what he wanted to do with it.

 
Frank
Chris
Tony
Jim
Howard
Jennifer
Kathleen
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Beyond the Sea
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