Beyond the Sea (2004)
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Review Date: December 29, 2004
Director: Kevin Spacey
Writer: Lewis Colick
Producers: Jan Fantl, Arthur E. Friedman, Andy Paterson, Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin
Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee
Bob Hoskins as Charlie
A biographical musical motion picture focusing on the life and times of Bobby Darin, his rise from a health-challenged young man to a headliner at the Copacabana and Vegas, an Oscar-nominated actor and the husband of virgin-esque actress Sandra Dee. Along the way, many songs are sung, dances danced and toupees worn.
What begins as one of the fluffier musical bio-pics that I had seen in some time, slowly, in its second hour, transforms into something a little deeper and more convincing with both Spacey’s lead character beginning to look more his age and injecting the movie with a much-needed shot of actual turmoil. Up to that point, everything seemed like it was on auto-pilot with the costumes, set decorations, songs and fantasy sequences all looking great, but not really providing the audience with anything in which to sink one’s teeth. Basically, it felt like an HBO movie with a big-name star in the lead and everyone else plugging in the holes, including Kate Bosworth looking sweet as Sandra Dee, but certainly not doing any heavy lifting. Spacey, the director, also jacked the film up as a “movie within a movie” with a narrator kid entering the picture every now and again, which also took away some of the film’s authenticity. Lastly, Spacey playing Bobby Darin as a young man trying to make it in New York just didn’t work, as the actor simply looked too old to be playing the part. Thankfully, things pick up in the second half with a “huge revelation” that rocks some of the up-to-that-point perfunctory perfect life that Darin had been living (even his “fights” with Sandra Dee were made to look somewhat farcical here), leading Spacey’s Darin into a more realistic portrayal, as he begins not only looking the older part, but playing a deeper, more interesting antagonist.

I wish the whole film would have been more like the second half, so that I could have been more into it, as opposed to how it’s lined up now, with fantasy, musical numbers galore and plenty of good-looking set pieces jamming its first half. That said, the film is still generally fun to follow and hear, as most of the tunes, sung by Spacey as well (the man actually went out on a 10-city singing tour with the release of this film), come through, particularly a great little sequence set to “Beyond the Sea”. The film’s final song & dance routines are also great, while Spacey finally puts all rumors of his own homosexuality to rest by directing this musically-inclined motion picture and singing and dancing his way into our hearts. Seriously though, if you’re looking for a deep bio-pic about Bobby Darin, a man about whom I did not know much before this movie, I don’t believe you’re going to find it here, as even Spacey has acknowledged that this is more of a “tribute” to the man than anything (although he does stamp home the fact that Darin was widely regarded as “arrogant”), but it does move along nicely and fluffily, with plenty of snappin’ tunes to keep one awake and even a touch of emotion nearing the end. Sure, Bosworth’s character sorta disappears in the second half (as she apparently did in real life—as they divorced—which is not mentioned in the film), Spacey should have cast someone much younger as the singer cutting his teeth earlier in the movie and Darin himself doesn’t particularly come off like a man who cared much about singing or his audience (it felt like all he really wanted to be was “bigger than Sinatra”), but I wasn’t bored during my screening, the songs and details of the time were right-on and I even got into the characters during its second half, so if the premise intrigues you, check it out in theaters, otherwise, maybe a late night video rental.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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