Running Time: 118 minutes.
Rated: Rated MA 15+
While this film is about singer-entertainer, Bobby Darin, the first comment s should focus on Kevin Spacey. He has co-written and directed this biopic and tribute to Darin. He places Darin-centre screen. However, his performance and direction, his singing and his dancing are of top order. Nobody has doubted his talent (think of his Oscars alone for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty). But, Beyond the Sea crams in two hours of Spacey skills for audience pleasure and admiration.
The screenplay is cleverly contrived. It has Darin himself re-living his life with his boyhood self (William Ullrich) as a counter-conscience. However, there is a line, reprised right at the end, that memories are like moonbeam s and we can do with them what we will.
Darin was born in 1936, a sickly child whose mother taught him to find strength
in music and imbued him with the ambition to outclass Frank Sinatra. He died after heart surgery in 1973. He had become a teen idol, a popular crooner, a film star with an Oscar nomination (Capain Newman MD), Grammy award winner, had married Sandra Dee and had a son. But his career was during the changing 1960s and his style went out of fashion. He devoted himself to politics and finished by writing anti-war songs. As this film is released, had he lived, he would only have been 68.
Spacey sings many of Darin's songs. He has studied Darin's voice, deli very, contact techniques with audiences and his orchestrations. It is a very careful rendering of Darin's music. The screenplay, as it moves from memory to memory (and some fantasy) uses the songs to illustrate situations and themes. Spacey also capitalises on the political themes of American involvement in Vietnam as a parallel to the involvement in Iraq.
Kate Bosworth gives a convincing interpretation of Sandra Dee, already a film star but only sixteen when she met and married Darin. The film shows his emotional wooing of her but does not shy away from the expected marital troubles, careers and pressures of being on the road and Dee's loneliness and drinking.
Spacey has assembled a topnotch supporting cast. Brenda Blethyn shows oomph and
verve as Darin's mother while Caroline Aaron brings a certain monstrosity as well as pathos to his sister, Nina. Bob Hoskins is at his best as his brother-in-law and John Goodman is John Goodman as his manager (who served as adviser to the film). Greta Scacchi outdoes Bette Davis or Angela Lansbury as a domineering mother.
While Bobby Darin's music may seem too 1960s for modern tastes, Beyond the Sea will be nostalgic for many. And Kevin Spacey is worth seeing and hearing.
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and an associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.