Consummate entertainer Bobby Darin (1936-1973) is making a movie about his life. He's volatile, driven by the love of performing, ambition, perfectionism, and belief that he's living on borrowed time. He begins in the Bronx: a fatherless lad learning music and dance from his mom. His career starts slowly, then "Splish Splash" puts him at the top of the charts and on "Bandstand." He wants to be an entertainer, not a pop star, so he aims for the Copacabana; then it's on to the movies, where he meets and marries Sandra Dee. After, it's balancing career, health, marriage and family life, balances he doesn't always keep. Throughout, conversations with his boyhood self give him perspective. Written by
(at around 67 minutes in) Sandra tries to console Bobby after losing the Oscar by telling him that Melvyn Douglas' win was "a sympathy vote" as he is dying, and his wife is a Congresswoman. Douglas died in 1981, and his wife Helen Gahagan served in Congress from 1945-1951. See more »
Watching Kevin Spacey's new film musical biography about the life of Bobby Darin, "Beyond the Sea", I couldn't help but think of the great film critic, Pauline Kael's assessment of Diana Ross in the film version of the 70's Black retelling of "The Wizard of Oz", "The Wiz". "Ms. Ross's insistence at the age of thirty nine of playing Dorothy age twelve in 'The Wiz'," wrote Ms. Kael, "amounts to a whim of iron." That's not to say that "Beyond the Sea" does not have merit. It does, and a lot of it. Or, that Kevin Spacey is inappropriately cast. Finally, he's not. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone else who could bring to this part what Spacey does. But having directed as well as co-produced, co-written, starred and done all of his own singing, one cannot escape that "Beyond the Sea" is ultimately much about Spacey as it is Bobby Darin;in the same manner that "Citizen Kane" is about Orson Welles as William Randolph Heart or, a.k.a. Charles Foster Kane. Spacey's strong ties to his own mother have been reported and Bobby Darin's relationship with his mother is at the focal point of the story, as well as Sandra Dee's, Darin's wife. Both appear as intellectuals with an artist's arrogance and both relish in an often droll delivery. And both, clearly, know how to sing.
Owing some stylish influence to Fosse's "All That Jazz" and even Coppola's "One From the Heart", "Beyond the Sea" shows off Spacey's strong grasp of cinematic story telling moving between surrealism and reality, and his even stronger vocalizing ability in sounding about as close to Darin as you could expect. He moves, he struts and there are moments when he quietly strikes an uncanny pose that looks just like some of those famous record covers. What Spacey can't escape is that at forty five, he is eight years older than when Darin died. Because we are so familiar with Darin's face the difference is noticeable. For some, this may amount to an impossible suspension of disbelief, much in the same manner of last year's "The Human Stain", where many found it impossible to buy Anthony Hopkins as a fair skinned Negro.
This is a shame because Spacey's work is formidable and an impact is made. A life is realized and rendered effectively, often brilliantly and I was moved at the end. If nothing else, one looks forward to what Spacey does next, both in front of and behind the camera. No doubt, his production of Oedipus Rex would be spectacular.
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