Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, July 7, 2008


BEYOND THE SEA (2004). Director/Co-Writer: Kevin Spacey.
This biopic of singer-actor Bobby Darin was clearly a labor of love for Kevin Spacey, who not only co-wrote (with Lewis Colick), directed, and starred in the film, but also does all his own singing – and is excellent at it. For much of its length this is a fairly standard show biz biography, although it has a stylized framework of Darin starring in a movie about himself and discussing with the other actors/characters how to proceed [There is even one outdoor production number like something out of a movie musical]. The movie skirts much of his younger life and brings him to Hollywood and the arms of wife Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) pretty quickly. It gets even more interesting when we see how he temporarily “dropped out” and then decided to reinvent himself as a folk singer [although one has to wonder if his singing anti-Viet Nam protest songs reflected his true feelings or was only an attempt to generate a new, younger audience for himself]. This could be dismissed as a “vanity production” for Spacey were it not for the fact that he pulls it off, despite being older than Darin was when he died. Bob Hoskins also gives a wonderful performance, as does Caroline Aaron as his mother, Nina [who pretended to be his sister for most of his life] and William Ullrich as Darin as a boy. The songs are well chosen and whatever its deficiencies the film works beautifully on an emotional level.
Verdict: Ol' Maggie's back in town! ***.


Laura R said...

I generally agree with your review of the movie, but would just like to say that Bobby Darin was very sincere in his opposition to the Vietnam War during his "folk-protest" period. Spacey doesn't show a lot from this period, but Bobby Darin was very inspired by Bobby Kennedy and campaigned for him in part because of Kennedy's pledge to end the war if elected. Bobby Darin was devastated by Kennedy's assassination. He attended the burial at Arlington Cemetary and kept an all-night vigil at the grave site. He claimed to have had a mystical experience during this vigil that changed him fundamentally. He also wrote a moving song about the experience entitled "In Memoriam". There's no doubt that the songs he produced during this period were heart-felt and not just part of a cynical plan to appeal to a younger audience.

William said...

Many thanks for your comments Laura. I appreciate this information about the talented Darin.