Eye For Film >> Movies >> Beyond The Sea (2004) Film Review
Beyond The Sea
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
What is it about showbiz biopics that are so predictable? When the work is what makes someone famous, what more can be said? That their private life is a mess? That they drink, takes drugs, have sex?
Who is Bobby Darin, anyway?
For those old enough to be lying about their age, he was Mack The Knife, a neat, small, energetic, smiley kinda guy, who sang pop songs as if he meant it. He married Sandra Dee, the teenage heartthrob of her day, and was up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in a movie that no one remembers. During the Sixties, when Robert Kennedy was on the campaign trail, he became political and after Kennedy's murder, as the war in Vietnam bogged down, was seen in clubs with an acoustic guitar, singing freedom songs that bored the audience rigid. He was like Steve McQueen when he grew his hair and went ethnic - a joke. But he came back, or rather fought his way back, to Las Vegas because he was born to perform.
What happened to Sandra?
Eager to show off his singing and dancing skills, Kevin Spacey picks up The Bobby Darin Story and rolls with it. All the time, you're thinking, "He's too old for this." And yet he's not, really. He covers the songs effortlessly and has a fine voice. As director, he mixes his metaphors, in the sense that he can't decide whether this is a tribute to a poor kid from the Bronx who never knew his daddy and should have died of rheumatic fever, or an old-fashioned musical where people dance in the street at the drop of a hat.
Following the fashion for time-shuffly flashbacks and magic realism, he has Bobby-as-a-kid follow Bobby-as-a-star, like the inner voice of childhood annoyingly present to remind him who he was and where he came from. When little Bobby rebukes big Bobby for not telling it like it is, big Bobby says, "Memories are like moonbeams. You can do with them what you will." In other words, is any of this true?
Robert Cassado became a singer because his mother (Brenda "bless her" Blethyn) encouraged him and one day, walking in the rain down a deserted street, he sees the sign for a Chinese restaurant, with half its name flashing and the other half fused. He takes the flashy end of Mandarin, swaps Robert for Bobby and the rest is hist.
The film feels too much of an ego trip. Spacey loves to sing and hang with a group of high-kicking dancers, usually men, and do his Gene Kelly impersonations. Bob Hoskins, as Bobby's brother-in-law, and John Goodman, as his manager, are there as story fillers. Greta Scacchi appears briefly and rather wonderfully as Sandra's domineering mother and Kate Bosworth, as the strawberries-and-cream cutie pie Miss Dee, is excellent, although underused.
What is it about Bobby that attracted Kevin? The question remains unanswered.Reviewed on: 26 Nov 2004