Beyond the Sea (2004)
Spacey Makes a Splish Splash with His Bobby Darin Biopic
Memories are like moonbeams, we do with them what we will - Bobby Darin
As biopics go Kevin Spacey's "Beyond the Sea", the story of Bobby Darin, is very much a typical Hollywood biopic, full of glitz and glamour yet often glossing over any less than savoury details to deliver a crowd pleasing eulogy to the talented singer. As such "Beyond the Sea" is not a terrible movie, and those who like the songs which Bobby Darin made famous will no doubt enjoy it, but for those more interested in his life away from the music will undoubtedly be left a little disappointed.
"Beyond the Sea" is the story of singer Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey - Pay it Forward) who in spite of being diagnosed with a heart condition as a child, which experts believed would cause him to die before he reached adulthood, managed to beat the odds and not only lived passed his teens but also had a 14 year career as a singer which included various number ones and awards as well as marrying the darling of the time Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth - Remember the Titans).
"Beyond the Sea" is the work of Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey who not only stars in the lead role but also directs. Sadly whilst a very good actor the same cannot be said of Spacey's direction as he tries out several styles to try and build up the story but never make them gel. From the various voiceovers, faux black & white footage, vastly different scenes merging from one to another and a series of ending subtitles which puts into doubt the realism of this interpretation it all feels like a poorly blended cacophony of techniques thrown together because they worked so well in other biopics. All of this makes "Beyond the Sea" a little uneasy to watch at times as it cheapens the feel of the movie.
Despite this, what is evident is that Kevin Spacey is extremely passionate about the life of Bobby Darin, or should that be his music as unfortunately "Beyond the Sea" plays like an extended collection of his more famous songs and not so much a movie about his life. It certainly is packed from start to finish with song and dance routines and rarely a scene is played which doesn't feature Darin singing, especially in the opening third of the movie. But as with many Hollywood biopics "Beyond the Sea" focuses on all the positives of his life, that being his music and barely mentions anything which would portray Darin in a negative light. The trouble is the balance between the songs and the life story is far too uneven making this less of a biopic about his life but more a musical. Personally I enjoyed all the musical elements but would have preferred to learn more about Darin as there are inklings through out "Beyond the Sea" that this musical talent was a very self obsessed egotist but they are never fully explored.
One of the big issues I have is that "Beyond the Sea" comes across as a bit of a jumbled up story and never truly flows naturally. From the opening sequence where we are introduced to Darin who is making a movie about his own life through which we are then introduced to Darin as a child who leads us through the movie, it never really seems to gel. This is not helped by various sub storylines such as Darin's heart condition, the issues over who is parents were and his opposition to the Vietnam war to mention just a few all bounce into the movie causing the movies pace to splutter rather than glide. It often feels that the script writers have created a list of important points in Darin's life matched them up to one of his songs but not found any real way to interlink them into a coherent storyline.
As for Kevin Spacey taking on the lead role of Bobby Darin, well yes he can sing and dance but a lot of the time seems a little too enthusiastic when it comes to playing someone he obviously idolizes. You get a sense that combined with his directional role Spacey was like a kid in a candy store in creating a gloriously glossy characterization of his idol and never held back on his enthusiasm for Darin's songs. Credit where credit is due and Spacey is so good when it comes to the singing, having performed the majority of the songs himself in the movie, even Darin's own family commented on how authentic he sounded.
The supporting cast also suffer thanks to Spacey's grip on the movie and with the likes of Brenda Blethyn, Bob Hoskins, John Goodman and Kate Bosworth who stars as Sandra Dee they never get to make the impact they need to as the movie, as already mentioned, focuses more on his musical achievements rather than his personal life.
Of course the soundtrack to "Beyond the Sea" is impressive and enjoyable with both well known songs such as "Beyond the Sea" and "Mack the Knife" as well as some of those lesser known ones, such as Darin's protest songs featuring it is definitely a joy for anyone who enjoys Darin's music. But it's not just Darin's music which features and there are few pieces from various eras employed to try and help define the time period.
What this all boils down to is that "Beyond the Sea" feels like yet another glossy but sanitized biopic which although entertaining never delivers anything more than a look at the musical life of Bobby Darin rather than his personal life. For some this will be a pleasure to watch, especially those who enjoy Darin's music, but for those more interested in what his life was truly like may find this too glossy and too much like a musical. What is more annoying is that behind all the gloss it has moments which hint about what Bobby Darin truly was like but then avoids going down that route.
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