Saturday, August 13, 2005

Movie Review: "Beyond the Sea"

Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn
Directed by Kevin Spacey

While lots of popular musicians have had biopics made of them over the years (Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, to name just a few), I don't recall a clamoring from Hollywood to have the Bobby Darin story put to film. But credit Kevin Spacey, who directed, starred, co-wrote and co-produced "Beyond the Sea," for bringing a passion to his longtime pet project. Then again, some may call it an ego trip.
Spacey, a lifelong fan of Darin, portrays the entertainer, who hit it big as a teen idol and managed to parlay that good fortune into a fairly successful, but short lived career. Having suffered through rheumatic fever at age 7, Darin was expected to be dead by 15. With the support of his family, Darin defied the odds, pushing himself hard over the years to attain his dreams of stardom. While passing away at 37, Darin managed to record numerous hits over the years ("Splish Splash," "Beyond the Sea," "Dream Lover," and "Mack the Knife" were among his biggest). Yet for younger generations, his name and body of work likely remains unknown.
"Beyond the Sea" isn't fully successful in giving a complete picture of Darin, as some aspects of his life, including the recording of his hit songs are completely skipped. Yet the film is still generally entertaining, as Spacey gives a strong performance in a difficult role that required a lot of singing and dancing. And the Oscar-winning actor acquits himself quite nicely in that regard, as he manages to be a rather impressive singer.
Played in a film within a film style, the opening scene shows Darin as a boy arguing with the older version of himself of how to start the movie. This allows the older Darin the chance to return to his boyhood home, providing the film a little flexibility with the obvious age difference between Spacey and Darin. (Spacey is already older than Darin was at the time of his death.)
Having achieved success in the music business at a young age, Darin also finds a passion for acting, even managing to pick up an Oscar nomination along the way. On one of his early films, he falls in love with one of his co-stars, Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth). While the scenes of him wooing her are obviously fictionalized for the sake of the movie, they're among the most entertaining, as Darin breaks into a well choreographed performance of the title track.
The two quickly marry, but run into expected bumps along the way, including the stress of maintaining successful, but separate careers. It would have been nice to see more scenes between the couple, as the relationship seems underdeveloped. But with most biopics, it's simply a matter of so much life to cover, so little time.
While "Beyond the Sea" may not inspire those without much or any knowledge of Darin to rush out and buy his music, the fact that his story has been told at all is an accomplishment in itself.

Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for some language and a scene of sensuality.)

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