Beyond-the-Sea
2004 Running time: 118 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3
Beyond The Sea

Synopsis

Kevin Spacey directs and stars as multi-talented 1950s singer Bobby Darin in this ambitious life and times biopic. A labour of love for Spacey, it's an eye-catching chronicle that takes in Darin's lifelong health problems, his marriage to fellow performer Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth), and of course his music, including his greatest hits Splish Splash, Mack The Knife and the song of the title.

Director

  • Kevin Spacey

Cast

  • Kevin Spacey

  • Kate Bosworth

  • John Goodman

  • Bob Hoskins

  • Brenda Blethyn

  • Greta Scacchi

Review

This isn't so much a humble biopic as a full blown love affair between actor Kevin Spacey and the late fifties singing star Bobby Darin.

Spacey, who plays the crooner as well as directing and co-writing, apparently spent four years fine-tuning a pitch perfect rendition of Darin's songs and moves.

The result is a rich, detailed glimpse at Darin's world but one wonders how well it will play in Britain where the singer enjoyed only a limited success.

It's certainly a cracking yarn: Darin - who scored nine top ten US hits - was born with a question-mark over his parenthood into New York's squalid Bronx.

With a heart damaged by rheumatoid arthritis, he wasn't supposed to reach 15 but his discovery of music literally gave him the will to live.

Taking rejection in his stride, he graduated from the fleapit supper clubs stubbornly following an eclectic musical path which took in pop, blues, jazz and country.

However, his driving ambition was to poison his private life, damaging his marriage to American sweetheart Sandra Dee (Bosworth) and alienating him from his son.

With no-one to reel in Spacey's directorial excesses, this lengthy tribute borders on hagiography with too many cinematic devices shoehorned into the narrative.

So we get big production numbers in period-perfect Bronx streets and Italian fountains, confusing use of flashback and spot-on reconstructions of Darin's greatest hits.

The singer's cardiac problems are always in the background but such is Spacey's obvious delirium at playing his idol he even appears thrilled when Bobby's about to flatline.

There's some good lines: Dee's mother - played by Greta Scacchi - offers her daughter an ill-advised pep talk: "I wish you'd concentrated on Rock Hudson."

The movie's also strong on Darin's frustration at living in the shadow of Frank Sinatra (whose record at the Copacabana Club Darin would actually break).

Although Spacey doesn't convince as the young Darin (he's too old), he has the star nailed in his twilight years as his health fades along with his career.

It's an affectionate portrait...but mainly of interest to fans of Darin or Spacey soft-shoeing and crooning his way through his idol's back catalogue.

Tim Evans

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