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I've been a fan of Walden Robert Cassotto's for a long, long time, and
I've been following the progress (or non-progress) of the bio-pic based
on his life for an equally long time (couldn't have been any more
pleased when I learned that Kevin Spacey was going to be the one to
finally bring the project to the proverbial light of day). I'm
mentioning this because I realize it's impossible for me to be
completely objective about the movie, feeling about its subject as
strongly as I do; I think that anyone who loved Bobby Darin cannot be
thoroughly objective regarding Spacey's film.
That having been said, I can tell you that I was profoundly affected by Beyond The Sea. Spacey lives up to his surname in spades with this project, by tossing out all the 'normal' bio-pic story-telling tools, instead resorting to a spaced-out show biz fantasy-type structure which does work because Bobby himself did use his career as an antidote against the reality of his ever-failing health and inevitable early death - his overwhelming drive and beyond-intense focus stemmed from the fact that he knew he had only so much time to do anything with his life; this is what made him so great on stage, and this immediacy and strength of purpose is conveyed brilliantly in the movie not through the usual talking and explaining sequences but rather through Darin's actions. So the liberties that Spacey takes with Bobby's life pay off - the song-and-dance numbers and the plot devices (the best one being Darin's younger self having a simultaneous part in the proceedings with the older Darin).
So much has been written about Spacey being too old to play Bobby, how Spacey shouldn't have actually sung the songs himself, how this is a vanity project on Spacey's part, blah blah blah. All untrue.
The clever way in which he stages the film acknowledges the fact that he knows he's chronologically older than the perfect age to play this part, and he sings the songs himself because he CAN - his voice is more than serviceable; in fact when I saw the trailer for the first time a few months back and heard him singing Mack The Knife I was in the theatre telling the person I'd come with "That's Bobby, that can't possibly be Kevin Spacey" - this from a person who has listened to Darin's recording of that song literally hundreds and hundreds of times.
The thing that is most interesting about the negative criticism is the one about this being a vanity project for Spacey; his desire and enthusiasm to share his feeling for Darin via this project is being interpreted as an ego trip, when in reality it's an unabashed and pure labor of love. The film is being misunderstood by a lot of people, and I see this as being unbelievably ironic and, ultimately, proof that the film works because Darin himself was constantly misunderstood, constantly having his hell-bent-for-leather, no-time-to-waste desperation perceived as arrogance. So Spacey succeeded on that level alone.
It also doesn't hurt that from the back, he manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to Bobby, he captures the physicality perfectly, and in all the shots that are not too close up, you'd swear it was Bobby that you were seeing and not Spacey. It's only in the close-ups that I was reminded it wasn't actually Bobby on the screen, and in the later scenes, when he becomes politically aware, grows the mustache and bills himself as Bob Darin, Spacey looks like him even in the close-ups.
By the end of the film, I found myself feeling profoundly moved by what I was experiencing, even though, oddly enough, I didn't feel up to that point that the film was particularly profound, and so my reaction was very surprising to me. There's a scene where -=- POSSIBLE SPOILER -=- Darin is in his hospital bed right before he dies and Sandra Dee (who was no longer with him at that time but still loved him) is in the bed cuddled up beside him - that image was, to me, by far the single most powerful one in the movie, and it has stayed with me, long after the movie's final credits. -=-END OF POSSIBLE SPOILER
I want to include this: the person I saw the film with hadn't been a fan of Bobby's the way I had for years, and I asked her after we'd left the theatre if she'd felt moved by what she'd experienced - I was trying to get a more objective idea how the movie would play to someone who wasn't so emotionally connected to the material. She said that after seeing it, she wanted to know more about Bobby, how she'd had no idea what he'd gone through in his life and how she felt tremendous compassion and respect for him.
Spacey has said that his motivation in doing the movie was to remind people who hardly remembered him what a monumental talent Bobby Darin was, and to hopefully introduce a new generation to the man. I think he's succeeded on that level too, at least with people who go to see this movie with an open mind and a receptive heart.
This film just premiered a few hours ago at the film festival here in Toronto. Kevin Spacey, Bob Hoskins and Kate Bosworth were in attendance. It was a gala event. Having said that I was very nervous about the success of a film where one guy not only produces, stars in, directs, co-writes but also does his own singing. Well, the guy pulled it off beautifully. The structure takes a little getting used to. It opens with Spacey playing Darin starring in a biopic of his own life. When a reporter walks up to him and says: "Don't you think you are a little old to be playing a guy in his twenties?" I started to feel relieved. Spacey obviously was aware that this was a potential problem in the way viewers might view his starring role and he chose to deal with it straight on instead of avoiding it. The plot is not important in this film. Rather, what the movie is about is capturing the energy and drive of Darin himself and, perhaps most important, the urgency with which he lived his life. Darin knew from a very young age that his life would likely be cut short due to a heart condition. And that simply drove him to do the best he could, and to do it as quickly as possible. Spacey's singing talent is a wonder to behold. Without actually imitating Darin, he manages to capture Darin's charisma and stage presence and well as his singing characteristics and mannerisms. While I never forgot that it was Spacey I was watching, I found his performance to be entirely believable. It was obvious that Spacey, the actor, thoroughly loved what he was doing and that every ounce of his being and all of his energy had been invested into this role. This man is a multi-talented individual who tackled a very difficult project and somehow managed to pull it off - beautifully. Highly recommended!
I've been a big fan of Bobby Darin's music for decades, particularly his renditions of standards and I have to agree with Gene Shalit on this, Kevin Spacey nails as best he can, without plastic surgery the late great singer. The film is, as Spacey says in the film, a fantasy and works on many levels, beginning with an attempt at a biographical picture and disecting his life through his eyes and through the eyes of a wary young man. Bob Hoskins as Darin's brother in law, Caroline Aaron as his sister, John Goodman as his manager and Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee all give excellent performances, without which I may have agreed with some other critics. As is, it's a strong performance and most of the critics who panned this film should reconsider who they think _their_ audience is. At 200 minutes, I never felt it was long and enjoyed the musical scores throughout. Thank you, Mr. Kevin Spacey, for a fine film I'll watch again and again. You should consider cutting an album of your own.
If you can overcome what I can't, you will enjoy Beyond the Sea: Kevin
Spacey is too old to play Bobby Darin, the 50's pop singer who died
from long-term effects of rheumatic heart at 37. At times Spacey is
playing Darin in his twenties when no matter how you tighten and pin
Spacey's face, he is still a 44-year old man with all the lovely
creases and bags time awards. The dislocation bothered me so that I
couldn't fully appreciate what is otherwise an outstanding performance.
But then Spacey is the director, so he has to be responsible for miscasting (or put another way, why didn't he do this 10 years ago when no one on this planet could have denied that he is the perfect Darin?). As John Irving said in "My Movie Business" about the choice of actors, "Looks do count." Although others have criticized Beyond the Sea as a Spacey vanity project, I found his performance believable and engaging with style appropriate to the best lounge singers of the time (Sinatra included) and spot-on perfect for Darin, if not better than the original. I've heard Spacey is touring with his band to promote this biopic; I'd go just to enjoy Spacey as a gifted singer.
The only moments to get past the many Darin songs and into his life are those centering on the influence of his "mother" (Brenda Blethyn, "Secrets and Lies") and his marriage to Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth). In the former, Blethyn does a bit of singing and dancing to show that Spacey is not the only multi-talent on the set. In the latter, the pop- culture lite of their romance is handled believably, as one might try to do David Beckham and his spicey love, a marriage just a vacuous and emblematic as the Darins'.
The irony of Sandra's mother wanting her to go after Rock Hudson rather than Darin brings laughter, intended for sure, as the audience is aware of Spacey's contending with rumors about being gay. Even jokes about Darin's toupee resonate with Spacey's own rugs in real life and for this part. Spacey doesn't take himself as seriously as critics do (witness an early scene where in the framing device of Darin filming his own life, he is accused of being too old to play himself).
The conjunction of subject and biographer is challenging at best. Paul Murray Kendall in "The Art of Biography" says, "On the trail of another man, the biographer must put up with finding himself at every turn: any biography uneasily shelters an autobiography within it." In that sense, Beyond the Sea is as much about Kevin Spacey as it is Bonny Darin.
This biopic ranks third next to Ray and De-Lovely; in another less-full year, it would be the best.
For those who cannot "suspend disbelief" in order to enjoy a musical,
this movie, and my review, are not for you. For the rest of us, "Beyond
the Sea" is a delight.
I read critics who said Kevin Spacey is too old to pull off a 20-something Bobby Darin. Wrong! Kevin Spacey's acting captures the essence of BD; after the first ten minutes of the movie it seemed that Kevin Spacey WAS Bobby Darin irrespective of age. I also read critics who said Spacey's dancing was stiff and awkward. Wrong! The production numbers were fabulous. His singing, acting, dancing were awesome, and it's a performance that should not be short-changed in this year's awards' season (although I fear it might be overlooked).
Kate Blodgett, too, did a great job of portraying Sandra Dee (but I wish they had kept her hairstyles more true to Sandra Dee of the 1960's).
My only disappointment is that so many important details about Bobby Darin's life were quickly glossed over or totally omitted. For example, there was no mention of his early years in the Pocono's; his unfulfilled romance with Connie Francis; his friendship with Dick Clark; his songwriting collaboration with Don Kirshner; and his subsequent marriage after divorcing Sandra Dee.
Nevertheless, I loved "Beyond the Sea" and plan to see it again this week. I'm afraid it won't still be in the theaters next week. It almost appears as though some of Hollywood and the newsprint critics have dissed it with almost a jealousy toward Kevin Spacey's Herculean efforts to bring this to the screen, not to mention his compelling performance.
I don't know if it will attract a younger viewing audience; but, if you're a Baby Boomer, this is a must-see.
Imagine being witness to a celebration of the supremely talented Bobby Darin. Breathing life into this gifted entertainer must have been a daunting task, yet Kevin Spacey succeeded in recreating the musical high of Darin's lifework as well as allowing the viewer a glimpse of a vulnerable human being, not unlike the rest of us. I'm sure that by now you've read how Mr. Spacey's musical performance in "Beyond the Sea," was brilliant, and it was. What I'd also like to mention is the sweet tenderness he brought to the love affair between Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee; at times I felt like an eavesdropper. It was quite obvious in the way this movie was written, acted, and so beautifully directed that Kevin Spacey really likes Bobby Darin. In that, he struck a chord with the audience I watched the movie with today. We all really like Bobby Darin, too. Thank you, Kevin Spacey. Bravo!
Spacey sings. Spacey dances. Spacey wears a succession of ghastly
This biopic of Bobby Darin splits cleanly into two modes. In the first, Kevin Spacey does highly watchable singing and dancing routines. In the second, he portrays a rheumatic singer who defied doctors and male-pattern baldness to become a star.
Although the film flicks back and forth between the two modes, they never gel as one seamless story, which is a problem for a biopic of a man whose life contained only a handful of interesting events.
It doesn't help that Spacey's Darin interrupts the plot every so often by stepping back from the narrative and discussing the film with his younger self. It is a device that does little more than remind you that you are watching a film - a fact that is never far from your thoughts anyway because of the large number of somewhat contrived dance numbers.
Nor are the biographical sections very convincing. It is clear well before the extensive pre-credits disclaimer that the director has taken some diabolical liberties with Darin's life, making you wonder what you have learnt from the film. Did Darin really take his name from a half lit neon "Mandarin" sign outside a Chinese restaurant? Did he really die after a successful comeback gig in Las Vegas, or was that just a narrative invention to end on a high note?
The upshot is a film that is more a celebration of Kevin Spacey's impression of a world-renowned entertainer than a celebration of the entertainer himself.
It is a tribute to Spacey's talent as an actor that the film remains likable, not least because he doesn't have the polish of an accomplished director. Too many scenes feel as though he was too shy to make his fellow cast members do one more take.
There is enough energy on display to allow most Darin fans forgive the film's weaknesses, but the more picky viewer will feel slightly disappointed.
Even though he's been making movies since "Heartburn" in 1986, and most
of us have probably heard of "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" from 1989,
"Seven" and "The Usual Suspects" from 1995, but it wasn't until
"American Beauty" came in 1999 that he became a familiar name amongst
movie critics. The role also won him an Oscar.
I've been a swing/jazz fan for a long time, and I'm being hit my minor anxiety attacks when artists like Robbie Williams and recently Westlife decide to do "a swing thing" and miss the whole point about the genre. Those who call Robbie Williams a crooner know just about as much about the genre as he does. So when I heard about Kevin Spacey's project a couple of years ago, I was automatically skeptical. By then I'd already heard him sing "That Old Black Magic" from the Clint Eastwood production "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" (1997) and he had a good voice, but performed the song like a pop song. Something the above mentioned artists also have a tendency to do.
Kevin showed up at the Michael Parkinson show last month to promote the movie, and announced he'd also be singing two songs: "Beyond The Sea" and "Mack The Knife" with a live orchestra. I was nervous. Up until the point where he started singing, that was. He's spent the last 12 years making this project perfect, and has received blessings from both Sandra Dee and her son with Bobby, Dodd.
Beyond The Sea - the movie: It all kicks off when Bobby Darin (Spacey) enters the stage and sings "Mack The Knife". If you've had any preconceptions of his ability to sing or perform, this will disappear before he's reached "...pearly white..." He nearly performs the whole song, but interrupts and a director shouts "cut". In the break a journalist shouts "isn't he too old to play this role?!" after him, upon where his manager sneers, "Don't listen to him, Bobby. How can you be too old to play yourself?" It appears we're on the set of the movie where Bobby Darin plays himself. Which makes it okay that he doesn't look 20 in the early scenes.
Not far into the movie he meets Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) on the set of the Rock Hudson movie "Come September" in 1961, and a romance blossoms. A bit of back and forth later, particularly with Sandra's mother, they become a couple and marry within two months. The fact that they hardly know each other adds up to certain problems, but even though they fight like cat and dog at points, there's always the underlying affection for each other. You get the feeling that it's the ultimate romance.
It's eventually this turbulent - but heartwarming - love affair and Bobby's performances where the focus of the movie lies, with a glimpse into his political phase during the Vietnam war when he lived in the middle of nowhere on his own. This bred the song "Simple Song Of Freedom" and an attempt at a comeback with a new image. We follow him all the way up to his last performance and an alternative ending that's very, well, swing.
The Soundtrack: Not only is the movie a work of art, Kevin shows an almost unbelievable talent for the genre. He's been taking singing lessons since the late 90's, and has studies every little detail in Bobby Darin's voice and being, most on and off stage. Everything looks and sounds right.
Kevin's vibrato is perfect. Smooth, subtle and last but not least... it's done properly. Some singers don't have a clue how to do a proper vibrato and sound like they've got something stuck in their throat when attempting one, but Kevin does it brilliantly. His phrasing is also spot-on, and he's got a lung-capacity that even professional singers can envy him. Bobby Darin went through different stages, from swing to light country, and Spacey says he's spent years with Darin songs on his iPod and kept hotel guests awake at night, singing his songs. Just to get it right.
He's done everything and then some to make everything sound as perfect as possible and succeeded. The orchestra also sounds amazing, and it's wonderful to hear real instruments on a 2004 album. He recorded all songs at the Abbey Road Studios - where the Beatles put down 172 songs - with the legendary Phil Ramone producing.
Conclusion: Kevin Spacey once said that 'the less you know about me as a person, the easier it is to believe I am that person on the screen' and he's right. I don't know anything about him and I don't want to know, because when I watch "Beyond The Sea" it's not Kevin Spacey I see - but Bobby Darin.
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.
This has been called "a labor of love" by the man responsible for this
movie: Kevin Spacey. He was driving force behind this biography being
put on screen, even to the point of starring in the title role. This is
the most amazing aspect of them all: Spacey's imitation of singer Bobby
Darin. It's unbelievable! He sounds remarkably close to how Darin
sounded. He did his idol proud, that's for sure.
Those who complain that he was told old to play the part are nitpicking. I am not a personal fan of Spacey. Off-screen, I think he's a jerk. However, the criticism of him here is simply unfair. The man did an incredible job imitating Darin - period. Who could have done better?
Kate Bosworth is also very good as "Sandra Dee," the actress who married Darin. She comes across as a very positive and nice person, a lot more than Darin whose problems are shown as well as his good points. He is not always a good guy.
The language is a little rougher than I'd like to see this in this music-biography. The bits with the kid were annoying, not profound as they were obviously trying to be. In fact, the film would have ended perfectly without that last 4-5 minute scene with the child.
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