Beyond the Sea

Bobby Darin, born Walden Robert Cassotto died in 1973 at the young age of thirty-seven. Kevin Spacey, the star/writer/director/producer of Beyond the Sea, is already 8 years older than Darin was at the time of his death, yet portrays him as from his mid-twenties until his death. Everything about Beyond the Sea screams "vanity project," but one hopes in the hands of somebody like Spacey it ends up better than other vanity projects like Sonny. Spacey spent years trying to make this film, and the result is a mixed bag. It sometimes borders on train wreck, but is quite interesting to watch. Spacey performs all of the songs (and recently went on tour) and gets the Darin's inflections and motions right, but his voice sounds nothing like Darin's did. Spacey should probably stay away from directing (Albino Alligator) and stick to acting (The Life of David Gale, The United States of Leland).

Spacey chose to tell Darin's story flashback style, similar to the structure of De-Lovely. The film opens with a performance of "Mack the Knife," but this is not a real performance. It is Darin making a movie about his life, and this is just one of those scenes. Spacey chose this method because it would allow Darin to examine his own life, as well as have conversations with his younger self (William Ulrich). Despite the two-hour running time, Beyond the Sea moves pretty quickly. Darin's mother (Brenda Blethyn, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Sonny) was a huge influence on him as a child, teaching him old vaudeville standards and instilling in him a love of music. Because of congenital heart problems, nobody expected him to live past the age of fifteen. Well he surpassed those odds and made his way to New York, where he changed his name and scored a hit with "Splish-Splash." Spacey has fully choreographed productions of "Mack the Knife," "Splish-Splash," and "Beyond the Sea" at various points in the film.

On the set of Come September he met and fell in love with Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth, Wonderland, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!). They eventually married, and the strain between Darin's love of the live stage took its toll on their marriage, and as music changed in the sixties, Darin found himself obsolete. As he got older, his condition worsened, making it harder for him to perform. A number of other characters appear, including Darin's sister (Caroline Aaron, A Day Without a Mexican, Along Came Polly), brother-in-law (Bob Hoskins, Vanity Fair, Maid in Manhattan), and manager (John Goodman, Clifford's Really Big Movie, The Jungle Book 2), but none of them really make any sort of lasting impression. Spacey is front and center, with a good helping of Bosworth, who gives a pretty bland performance.

The musical numbers are colorful and somewhat haphazardly choreographed, but there is no real lasting impression to anything in Beyond the Sea. After watching, one gets the feeling of "so what?" One can glean as much information from reading a short biography of Darin, and probably do so in less time. Spacey infuses Darin with arrogance and self-confidence, undoubtedly necessary for Darin to go as far as he did in show business, but it doesn't help make him sympathetic to the viewer. It's hard to get over Spacey's age. The film does not work well enough to convince people that Spacey is Darin; it always feels like it is Spacey up there singing. And it's just eerie watching him woo Bosworth, who is less than half his age.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated PG-13 for strong language and a scene of sensuality.

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