Film-Forward Review: [BEYOND THE SEA]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin
Photo: Jay Maidment

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Directed by: Kevin Spacey.
Produced by: Arthur E. Friedman, Andy Paterson, Jan Fantl & Kevin Spacey.
Written by: Kevin Spacey & Lewis Colick.
Director of Photography: Eduardo Serra.
Edited by: Trevor Waite.
Music Producer: Phil Ramone.
Released by: Lions Gate.
Language: English.
Country of Origin: USA/Germany/UK. 118 min. Rated: PG-13.
With: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi & Caroline Aaron.

Like the framing device of this year's fellow musical biography De-Lovely, singer/actor Bobby Darin (director Kevin Spacey) is the off-stage spectator to his unfolding life. With colorful ethnic types (courtesy of the Bronx) the film charts the singer's rise under the guidance of his loving mother (Brenda Blethyn), an archetype that goes back to The Jazz Singer (1927). Despite having his heart damaged by rheumatic fever, Darin lives well beyond his fifteen year prognosis. In 1958, while in his early twenties, the singer has a hit with the teeny-bobber anthem, "Splish, Splash." But what he really wants is to perform standards, like his idol Frank Sinatra. After conquering the charts with "Mack the Knife," films beckon.

Unlike De-Lovely, which wisely focused on the gay Cole Porter's unorthodox marriage, there is no distinguishing angle to set Beyond the Sea apart from its genre. All of the episodes covered here will be more than familiar: the tempestuous showbiz marriage, the fall from stardom. (There's no mention of his romance with Connie Francis.) What could have borne more scrutiny is his relationship with his family, especially his mother. Instead, it is just one of many subplots.

Too often the script (co-written by Spacey) falls back on music-bio clichés, with the determined Darin declaring, "When the delivery guy knows me, then I'm a star." And watch out for the glassware when he's upset (like Prince in Purple Rain, he goes on a rampage following a familial disturbance).

Only rarely does the film break out of its pedestrian narrative with a lively musical number, the best being Darin serenading as well as pursuing his co-star, teen movie star Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth), to his hit, "Beyond the Sea." Unlike Chicago, Beyond the Sea doesn't hold back, but unabashedly celebrates its pre-Beatles time period, when Broadway original recordings were huge bestsellers and the television variety hour was in vogue. But with the exception of "Beyond the Sea" and "Mack the Knife," you won't likely be humming the tunes afterwards. Kent Turner
December 17, 2004



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