"Arty Movie About Pop Icon"
BEYOND THE SEA attempts to tell the story of Bobby Darin and his beloved Sandra Dee. The acting and the musical numbers demand better than the movie's disjointed storyline, and all the drinking, smoking and foul language.
BEYOND THE SEA is a mixed bag. It tries to tell the story of two pop idols, Bobby Darin and his beloved Sandra Dee, but the biography does not have a conventional plot structure, so director Kevin Spacey – who also plays Bobby Darin – tries some unique movie artifices, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, to create drama. At times, the movie appears to be a musical, at other moments, a traditional biography, often it appears to be an intellectual exercise, and at other times, it is extremely arty.
The movie opens with Bobby Darin being ushered by his retinue into a nightclub, where he starts to sing “Mac the Knife.” Suddenly, the storytelling illusion is broken when he sees himself as a small child during the song and stops the filming of his own biopic. He leaves the movie set to go to the editing room with little Bobby to discuss where to start the movie and how to tell the story. Bobby the boy suggests that Bobby the man start at the beginning.
Bobby grew up as Walden Robert Cassotto in the Bronx. Rheumatic fever almost killed him and permanently damaged his heart. His beloved mother Polly, once a Vaudeville singer, introduces him to music. Within a few years, he learns how to play the piano, the drums and the guitar – all before he reaches his teens. His mother instills in him a drive to become bigger and more famous than Frank Sinatra. By 20, he’s doing just that. He writes hundreds of songs, sells millions of records, and is nominated for an Academy Award as a supporting actor in a movie. As he ascends the ladder of success, he meets Sandra Dee, whom he courts and marries in spite of her mother’s objections.
Kevin Spacey does a wonderful job playing Bobby Darin. He clearly communicates that Darin always understood his own mortality from his weakened heart, which brought an early end to his life. Kate Bosworth is stunning as Sandra Dee, in a cute, Hollywood pop idol of the 1960s way. She plays her role to a ‘T.’ The acting is the best part of the movie.
A close second are the music numbers, which are reminiscent of the golden age of musicals. Spacey loses himself in the dance numbers, and they come off very well. In fact, this could have been a tremendous musical.
The problem with BEYOND THE SEA is the artifice that director Kevin Spacey uses to try to pump drama into the story. He continually breaks dramatic action by going back and forth between the thought life of Bobby Darin, communication directly with the audience and reflections on the filmmaking process, but even with all this, there is not enough emotional structure to hold the audience’s attention. The poignant moments come off as flat. Breaking the storyline comes off as disjointed.
Although there is not the traditional pursuit of sex and drugs that are often found in biographies of musicians, and although Bobby tried to stick with his wife in spite of severe arguments, the moral good in his life is muddled by the very presentation and the cold arrogance of Bobby Darin himself. Also, there is lots of drinking and smoking in the movie, clearly representative of this period of history. And, the foul language is constant, with a plethora of profanities.
Compared to RAY, BEYOND THE SEA is not going to hold up, which is too bad because BEYOND THE SEA could have been so much better. The acting and the musical numbers demand attention, despite the disjointed storyline and disappointing thematic elements.
(B, C, LLL, AA, D, M) Very mild moral worldview about famous singer seeking to do the right thing, hold his marriage together, and find out the truth about his life, with very slight Christian content, although most of the content shows aggressive opportunism and the vagaries of the human condition; 29 obscenities and 27 profanities; singer has ill health as a child and heart problems as an adult and shows heart operation scars; passionate kissing, and married couple in bed twice, fully clothed the second time; drinking; smoking and medicines; and, ruthless ambition.
GENRE: Drama/Musical Biography
BEYOND THE SEA tells the story of Bobby Darin and his beloved Sandra Dee, but it doesn’t have a conventional plot structure, and therefore sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Parts of the movie appear to be a musical, others traditional biography, others an intellectual exercise. The movie opens with Bobby Darin being ushered into a nightclub, where he starts to sing. Suddenly, he sees himself as a small boy and stops the filming of his own biopic. He goes to the editing room with little Bobby to discuss where to start the movie and how to tell the story.
Kevin Spacey does a terrific job playing Bobby Darin, clearly communicating that Darin always understood his own mortality. Kate Bosworth is stunning as Sandra Dee, in a cute, pop icon way. The music numbers are reminiscent of the golden age of musicals. The problem is the artifice that director Kevin Spacey uses to construct the storyline. It lacks the emotional structure to hold the audience’s attention. BEYOND THE SEA could have been much better. The acting and the musical numbers demand better than the movie's disjointed storyline, and all the drinking, smoking and foul language.