The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Beyond The Sea

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Judy Thorburn

"Beyond The Sea" - Barely See-Worthy

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Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

“BEYOND THE SEA” – BARELY SEE-WORTHY

For seventeen years Hollywood had played around with the idea of making a movie about the life of singer Bobby Darin.  Various directors and numerous actors had been associated with the project, but nothing ever came to fruition until two-time Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey took over and made the movie himself.  As producer, director and star of Beyond the Sea, it is Spacey’s project all the way. Why him? Because Spacey says he has a personal connection to the late crooner. In fact, by listening to the actor in interviews, Spacey would want us to believe he has channeled the spirit of Darin.  Well now, isn’t that special! It would be, if this cinematic biopic had been true to its subject and lived up to expectations.   As it is, Beyond the Sea is more like a vanity piece for Kevin Spacey to showcase his talents for song and dance than a really good representation of Bobby Darin’s life. It is one thing to feel compelled about making a movie, but when dealing with a biography of an actual person not a fictional character, the filmmaker must show control as far as creative license or liberty is concerned.  Unfortunately, Spacey didn’t abide by those rules. For any fan that remembers and followed the career of the late singer, there are changes and/or omissions about Darin’s life that they will find inexcusable.

For one thing, Bobby Darin was only thirty-seven when he died during open-heart surgery.  But somehow, Spacey didn’t see the problem in casting himself as Darin even though he is 45 years old, and looks it.  Yet, he plays Darin from the age of 20 on, a definite no no.   Putting him next to pretty Kate Bosworth, who plays his young wife, teen queen actress Sandra Dee, made the miscasting and age difference too obvious and detracts from believability. Zero chemistry between these two doesn’t help either.  In fact, not only does he look it, but he IS old enough to be her father.  What Spacey does have going for him is his voice.  He definitely can sing and performs all of Darin’s songs himself with impeccable sound alike style, although he doesn’t capture any of Darin’s physical stage mannerisms.

In bringing Darin’s story to screen Kevin Spacey utilizes a plot device similar to the recent De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd as renowned composer Cole Porter and his wife.  In both movies a character helps direct the lead on an introspective look back at their life before they died. In Beyond the Sea the adult Darin talks to his child version (William Ullrich) who acts as the guiding force to memories on the set of the movie he is making about his life.

Darin got his first taste of show business from his former vaudeville performer mother Polly (Brenda Blethyn), who taught him that music could open up a new world, after he nearly died from rheumatic fever at the age of seven.  The film then gives us a picture of personal and career events leading up to his premature passing at thirty-seven, but they are not depicted in a total factual way having been tampered with by Spacey, as screenwriter.

Beyond the Sea covers such details such as what led to his name change from Robert Walden Cassotto. The street kid from the Bronx saw the word Mandarin on a restaurant marquee and decided to change his name to Bobby Darin.  It then goes on to tell how after achieving chart topping success with hits such as Splish Splash, Mack the Knife and Dream Lover, the teen idol went on to make movies, falling in love and marrying his first film co-star Sandra Dee, against the wishes of her controlling mother Mary (Greta Scacchi).  However, their tumultuous marriage is poorly depicted. Especially bad is the big fight sequence, which comes across as embarrassingly over the top and campy. This film would then have you believing that Darin was married to Dee until his death; while in reality they were divorced after four years.

The supporting cast that includes John Goodman, as manager Steve Blauner and Bob Hoskins as brother in law, Charlie Cassotto Maffia, are given little to do. And, an important part of Darin’s life that could have been dealt with better was the family secret kept hidden from him till adulthood. Nina (Caroline Aaron), the woman he was raised to believe was his sister finally reveals the truth to him that she is his mother and that Polly was her mother, his grandmother.

Darin’s dream of playing the Copacabana was realized, but wanting to be the next Sinatra escaped his grip.  When his career hit a downslide during the hippie sixties, he became politically active, tried to sing anti war songs, but was booed off the stage. He was able to make a comeback only after giving audiences what they wanted – to hear what they see.

I wanted very much to like this film. But, it left out important highlights from Darin’s career – for one, being his own network TV show, which I, as a young child, remember watching. Also, the transitions from drama to fantasy musical numbers didn’t work for me, not that they weren’t well choreographed or staged.  They just came out of nowhere and were an awkward fit.

If Kevin Spacey wanted this vehicle as a stepping-stone for a singing career, say at a Vegas venue, it’s already a done deal starting with his recent gig at the Stardust Hotel and Casino. But, the film fails as anything more.

An honest biopic it isn’t.  That’s a shame, because Darin, beyond the grave deserves more from Beyond the Sea.