Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: N/A
BOBBY Darin lived a short but remarkable life. By the end of
his brief, 14-year career, he'd had more hits in more genres of
music than any recording artist except Elvis Presley and Ray Charles,
as well as being nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar during
his time in the movies.
His appetite for success was insatiable and driven by the knowledge
that he was living on borrowed time.
At the age of seven, Darin caught rheumatic fever, which damaged
his heart for life, and doctors predicted that he wouldn't live
beyond the age of 16. He died at 37.
Beyond The Sea, the film inspired by Darin's success story,
is a beautifully-acted, and keenly directed labour of love for
Kevin Spacey, who not only stars as Darin, but sings, dances,
directs and produces to boot.
It is the sort of role that seems tailor-made to appeal to the
Oscar voters' sensibilities and which confirms Spacey as one of
the brightest all-round talents of his generation - yet as enjoyable
as the film is, there is the nagging feeling that something is
Undoubtedly, this is the film that Darin would have made about
himself, were he still alive to make it. It is a tribute viewed
through rose-tinted specs, that only briefly taps into the darker
side of Darin's celebrity.
And by posting a post-script notice at the end of the movie,
which admits that this is by no means the definitive version of
Darin's life story, but one which relies on the saying that 'dreams
are like moonbeams', viewers may tend to feel that Spacey is providing
himself with a 'get out of jail' card for any would-be critics.
That said, there is still plenty to admire and fans of Spacey,
in particular, will hail it as another personal tour-de-force
from the star.
He sets about playing Darin with
unbridled enthusiasm, taking viewers through the greatest hits
of Darin's life, from his rise from tacky nightclubs to Vegas
and the Copacabana, through to his stint in the movies, his biggest
successes (Beyond The Sea and Mack The Knife),
his dabbling in politics, and his battle with ill-health and self
He also adopts a non-linear approach to the story-telling which
helps to keep viewers on their toes - mixing childhood memories
with those from his later life - and tells it from Darin's own
retrospective (much like the recent Cole Porter epic, De-Lovely).
And he intersperses proceedings with some genuinely lively song
and dance routines, that not only provide a fitting showcase for
Spacey's terrific singing voice, but for some wonderfully inventive
choreography as well.
Yet for all of its successes, there are some notable failures
mixed in. Kate Bosworth, as Darin's wife, Sandra Dee, lacks the
presence to make her scenes with Spacey carry much emotional clout,
while the age gap between them seems awkward and only serves to
emphasise the lack of chemistry.
And the legendary temper that Spacey alludes to at the beginning
of the movie is only revisited in flashes, making Darin appear
much more of a likeable egotist than he probably was.
When compared to other biopics doing the rounds at the moment,
it is undoubtedly better than De-Lovely, but not quite on a par
with Ray (which looks set to become
the standard-bearer for this season), and might possibly suffer
as a result.
But for anyone willing to forgive the film its excesses, there
is plenty to admire, not least in Spacey's devotion to the project,
and some of the peformances from his excellent support cast, including
Bob Hoskins, as a father-figure, and John Goodman, as his best
friend and manager.
What's more, the conclusion carries a genuinely affecting emotional
resonance, made all the more memorable by Spacey's masterly performance
as Darin. If nothing else, the film is worth seeing for that alone.