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  Beyond the Sea Bobby Dazzler
Year: 2004
Director: Kevin Spacey
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi, Caroline Aaron, Peter Cincotti, William Ullrich, Michael Byrne, Matt Rippy, Gary Whelan, Jake Broder, Tayfun Bademsoy, Tomas Spencer, Marcus Brigstocke
Genre: Musical, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey) is onstage, wowing the crowd in this nightclub with his rendition of Mack the Knife when suddenly he stops mid-song after catching sight of his younger self as a boy standing behind the curtains and watching him. The club is actually a movie set, as he is making a film of his own life with himself as the star, although some are saying he looks too old for the role. The little boy (William Ullrich) reappears and begins to discuss with Bobby how he thinks this film should go: at least it should start with his childhood years and the illness which nearly killed him - and later, at the age of 37, would eventually do just that.

So Darin is in his twenties during his heyday, right? So obviously the man to go to would be forty-four year old Kevin Spacey, yeah? Well, not really if we're being honest, but this film had been in production for so long that you might have said that Darin had aged with it, and besides, Spacey was the star, the producer and had rewritten the script to his satisfaction, hence the queries early on in the film about him looking too old. Somehow, through sheer force of star ego, he keeps you watching, yet the essential cheek of the concept he was such a big fan of the singer that he would not allow the role to be played by anyone more suitable, i.e. young, means there's a cloud of showbiz absurdity hovering over Beyond the Sea.

Not least because Spacey seemed tempted to make it an all out song and dance extravaganza with himself at its centre, hoofing as if he were part of a Broadway revue and of course singing away himself rather than miming to recordings of Darin. Now, he can carry a tune, technically he's fine, but he doesn't have the pizazz of his idol and there's little here that will make you think that's our Bobby. In fact, you're always all too aware that you're watching Mr Spacey, and in spite of his legendary capabilities as an impressionist he never truly inhabits the Darin personality. If there were a biopic of Christopher Walken being shot, then he would be the man to go to, and who knows maybe he considered it, but he is miscast in this.

It's unfortunate that the tone has to go all serious at frequent intervals, because this could have been a bit of fun in the style of an old television variety show where the host would participate in a few sketches with his guest stars and round the evening off with some catchy tunes. There's a Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin as presenter where he starts singing Mack the Knife, then ends up repeating the same two lines over and over to hilarious effect, and something of that kidding approach might have made for a more pleasing experience. As it is, we have to contend with Darin's heart condition, his messy marriage to Sandra Dee, and his faltering ambition in the face of wavering public interest.

Not much to laugh at there, and a sequence where Dee (as played by Kate Bosworth), has a panic attack on her wedding night because she vividly recalls her childhood sexual abuse is particularly hard to take as Spacey is clearly over twice her age, offering an unwanted layer of connotation to the proceedings the later accusations against him make more uneasy to watch (though he was never accused of harassing girls). But the director is choosy about the other things he includes, so Darin's divorce from Dee and subsequent second marriage never happened according to this, but apparently he did announce that the woman he thought was his sister (Caroline Aaron) was actually his mother from the stage during his act, which genuinely did never happen (although she really was). Beyond the Sea is pretty much an exercise in watching one star running rampant over another star's life, and while undeniably captivating, it couldn't be said to be engrossing for all the right reasons: Spacey's gall is quite something to witness.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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