The film opens with Darin singing his hit song "Beyond the Sea" in a nightclub scene. The number is abruptly halted and we learn that the nightclub is actually a film set. A young Bobby (William Ullrich) steps on the set to let Darin know that he has it all wrong. Then we flash back to Walden Robert Cassotto's (Darin real name) childhood growing up in a tenement flat in the Bronx, where we immediately realize that what we are about to see is not a straightforward retelling of the singer's life, but rather a story-within-a-story with Darin himself re-creating his own memoir.
What initially looks like it's going to be a creatively developed, multi-layered biography with a lot of promise, winds up as a clumsily executed and annoyingly disjointed story with too many interruptions and distractions. I know what Spacey the director was trying to do, and to his credit there are many interesting segments. But breaking the fourth wall is a temptingly dangerous technique that's better left in the hands of a well-seasoned filmmaker.
We witness young Bobby's sickly childhood that left his heart ravaged by the effects of rheumatic fever. Darin struggled throughout his life with the disease that was expected to kill him before he reached 15, but he credits his mother (Brenda Blethyn) with instilling in him a love for music. We briskly roll through Darin's achievements, including his hit songs, Splish Splash and Mack the Knife, his best actor nomination for his role in Captain Newman, M.D., and his well-known marriage to teen heartthrob Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) whom he wed in 1960 when she was just 16 and with whom he had a son. And then there are Darin's down years. Specifically his failed marriage and his life in a trailer parked on a California beach where he reinvents himself as a folk music activist.
As an exposition of the singing and dancing talents of Kevin Spacey (he did his own dancing and singing in the film), Beyond the Sea hits the mark. But not even Spacey's outstanding performance can save the film from its lack of depth and its absence of genuine warmth of heart. It felt as if Spacey had a lot to say about the man he deeply respected, but didn't have the adequate means to say it. I never knew much about Bobby Darin before this film, and Spacey never really did anything to change that. I'm now familiar with a mile-high timeline of the life of Bobby Darin, but I don't know much about Bobby Darin the man.
Sammy Davis, Jr. once said that the hardest act to follow in Las Vegas was Bobby Darin because he was so comfortable on stage. "It was like Darin was performing in his own living room". Spacey successfully depicts Darin's renowned stage presence and he satisfyingly shows us the artistic talent that propelled this sickly little waif into fame and fortune's orbit, but he never seems able to completely connect with his character.
There's a line early on in Beyond the Sea in which the adult Bobby Darin tells his younger self, "Kid, memories are like moonbeams, we do with them what we want". Spacey must have taken this line to heart and given us what HE wanted, rather than giving us what WE wanted.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:
Subtitles: Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; director's commentary.
o With writer/director/actor Kevin Spacey and producer Adam Paterson.
* Featurette - Making-of featurette featuring cast and crew interviews.
* Trailers - Original theatrical trailer for Beyond the Sea in addition to various other upcoming big screen and DVD releases.
* Music Video - features the singing performances of Kevin Spacey.
Number of discs: 1 - Keepcase packaging.
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