Dir: Kevin Spacey. UK-Ger.2004. 121mins
An old-fashioned,razzle-dazzle biopic, Beyond The Sea breezes through the life of 1960sshowbusiness all-rounder Bobby Darin with a song and a dance and a ton ofchutzpah. Kevin Spacey's second directorial effort (after Albino Alligator)is a true labour of love; beautifully designed, richly photographed andglistening with ambition.
Spacey the actor delivers acharismatic star performance that captures both the voice and the mannerisms ofDarin. The problem is that Darin's life and legacy seem no more remarkable thanothers of his generation and the film deals in the kind of hoary old showbizcliches that we have seen countless times before.
Commercial prospects willrest on whether audiences share Spacey's passion for Darin which seems unlikelyand suggests that Beyond The Sea can expect to perform on a par withsome of the year's other biopics like De-Lovely and The Life AndDeath Of Peter Sellers.
Adopting a Felliniesquestructure, the film begins with Darin masterminding a concert to celebrate his10th anniversary in showbusiness and piecing together a film about his life.The device works against the grain of biopic conventions and allows others tointervene, contradict cherished memories and comment on what is seen. Early on,someone asks if Darin is now too old to play himself. "This is crap, "growlsbrother-in-law Charlie (Hoskins). "He was born to play this part." It's a slyway of defusing concerns that Spacey himself is way too old to play Darin.
Returning to Darin's earlyyears, we learn of his rheumatic fever and the doctor who states he will belucky to live beyond 15. Already, he is living under a death sentence. Hismother Polly (Blethyn) encourages his dreams and tells him that one day he willsing at the Copacabana night club just like Frank Sinatra. Memories of the pasteven blossom into a large scale Oliver-styleknees up on the streets of the Bronx and the film has a taste for MGM-stylespectacle or at least Jacques Demy homage.
A teen idol who yearned forsuccess in every area of the arts, Darin eventually won two Emmys, an Oscarnomination and married actress Sandra Dee (charmingly played by Bosworth). Allhis dreams come true and yet he still seems to strive for a sense of his ownidentity.
Revelations of his tangledparentage and a keen awareness of his own mortality go some way towardsdiscovering the Rosebud that might be the key to his existence but the film isshort on psychological insight and much more at home with glitzy nostalgia.
Wearing a jet black toupeeand a prosthetic nose, Spacey may appear a little embalmed at times but hereally does look like the singer especially in black and white sequences wherehe matches his performances on television shows and in cabaret. He has hisring-a-ding style down to a tee and even captures the slightly camp air thatDarin displayed on stage. He sings up a storm, dances credibly and depictsDarin as ruthless, driven, arrogant and utterly charming. If nothing else, thefilm is a personal triumph for Spacey and his longstanding faith in theproject.
Prod cos: Archer Street, QualityInternational, Trigger Street
Int'l sales: Element X
Exec prods: Michael Burns, Peter Block, Jason Constantine, Jim Reeve, Steve Robbins,Thierry Potok, Joanna Horowitz, Henning Molfenter, Doug Hansen
Prods: ArthurFriedman, Andy Paterson, Jan Fantl, Kevin Spacey
Prod des: Andrew Laws
Music: JohnWilson, Christopher Slaski
Main cast: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn,Greta Scacchi