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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

"Beyond the Sea" Throwback Review

Beyond the Sea is a passion project Kevin Spacey has been trying to make for years. Here he finally gets the chance to tell the life story of legendary singer Bobby Darin. Acting as both the star and the director, Spacey gives tells us the story of Darin from his childhood years all the way to his untimely death at a young age. While Spacey is the perfect actor to portray Darin, he isn’t the best director for the film, making many poor choices in terms of storytelling and plot structure.

The story of Beyond the Sea starts with Bobby Darin trying to make a feature film about his own life. The only problem is that he’s a perfectionist with a temper when something doesn’t go the way he wants it. Darin is approached by the actor playing his younger self and is told that the film is all wrong and that he needs to start from the very beginning to tell his story. From this point, we learn about Darin’s ill childhood and how he was inspired by his grandmother to have a career in music. We then follow his rise from a small town hit to a teen music icon with the hit “Splish Splash.” Darin is now a star and goes into movies, falling in love with his soon to be wife, Sandra Dee. This is where we start to see the fall of an idol as Darin lets his dream of being the world’s biggest star consume him and everyone around.

The plot unfolds differently because of the film within a film element Spacey uses. Darin recounts his life story to the audience, intercutting between the past, present, and future. The choice to tell the story this way is the biggest detriment to the film. It's actually pretty confusing chronologically when things are happening. The film within a film element is presented at the beginning of the film, but is merely alluded to throughout which makes the timeline vague and confusing. We don’t really know which parts of the plot are part of the fictional film or the real film. There is also the presentation of a child actor playing Darin as a kid in the film, but he also acts as a part of Darin's mind, almost like a vision that interacts with him. The kid's part in the film is also pretty confusing and is an element that is unneeded to tell the story.

The music here is excellent as we listen to the career hits of Darin. Spacey is a great singer and practically sings every song better than Darin himself. Most songs are done in a sequence on stage or in a kind of music video format. The production that went into each song paid off very well as the choreography, scenery, and costumes are superb. Highlights include "Splish Splash", "Beyond the Sea", and "Simple Song of Freedom".

The acting is the biggest draw of the film, especially Kevin Spacey in the lead role. Spacey was perfectly cast as he uses his immense talent as both an actor and singer to capture Darin's life. The only negative from his casting is that Spacey is a 45-year-old trying to play a rising star in their early 20’s. Spacey definitely looks older than he should, but it’s not a big distraction as he is the only person who could portray Darin this well. Kate Bosworth is also good as his wife and actress Sandra Dee. We see her character arc evolve as she goes from a young emerging actress to a wife stuck in a dilemma between her family and career. A supporting role by Bob Hoskins is also a pleasant watch as he assumes the role of Darin's father figure. John Goodman slots in with a small supporting role, but doesn't add anything new or exciting to the overall story. While his role isn't well written or directed, William Ullrich as Darin's younger self is quite enjoyable to watch as he sings and dances with immense talent.

Beyond the Sea is a well acted, but poorly directed film that tries too hard to distance itself from other biopic films. The amazing song and dance numbers can't hide a dreadfully constructed plot that is confusing to follow and hard to enjoy. Kevin Spacey still has a gleaming career as an actor left for him and he should stick solely to that before his work as a director gets him in trouble.


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