Friday, July 01, 2005

EC:WC FCA Review – Beyond The Sea

A West Coast Critic review:

A 100% vanity project for Kevin Spacey, this film is a loosely-based fictionalized biopic about crooner Bobby Darin. Spacey is known for his strong affection to Bobby Darin’s music, and Kevin now had the reputation, influence, and money to get this project from dream to script to screen (he’s listed as lead actor, director, co-writer and co-producer).

Watching it gives the impression of a Gene Kelly musical within a musical. And the story is told within a story from the POV of Darin both as an adult and as a young boy. I give Spacey credit for the unique style and story delivery, but there’s something lacking. Even though he takes a dig at himself early in the film when a character questions whether “Darin” is too old to play himself in a biopic, it still becomes obvious that Spacey is still too old to play Darin.

What really makes it so obvious is that he doesn’t have Greta Scacchi play Sandra Dee (she’s obviously too old for that role), he has her playing Sandra’s mother. But Spacey was too emotionally attached to this project to see that about himself.

Spacey is also singing all of the Darin tunes throughout the film. He does an admirable job, but he’s no Bobby Darin. There’s question as to whether he’s actually singing one tune - the song “Beyond The Sea” (the hit song on which the film is titled) - or whether it’s a Darin overdub. It doesn’t matter, since Spacey is overdubbing himself throughout the film. This is standard for musicals, as it’s very difficult to record live singing on film.

And this gets to the point about Spacey not being right for this role. Spacey mentions in the DVD extras that he didn’t want to use Darin’s vocals so as not to get locked into specific arrangements. But since he’s dubbing/lip-syncing to his own vocal tracks, it would’ve made better sense to get someone who could better match Darin’s vocal style. But to do that would make it even more glaringly obvious that Spacey is TOO OLD for this role.

One other weakness of the film is it’s central focus - the main character. Is the life story of Bobby Darin enough to carry a movie? That question is up for debate. Kevin Spacey certainly seemed to think so. He probably wrung out of the project as much as anyone could have from the brief history of the famous singer who died too young yet lived far longer than he should’ve.

I’ve always liked much of Spacey’s work, going all the way back to his stunningly powerful role as Mel Proffit in the first season of the TV series “Wiseguy”. He does a good performance in “Beyond The Sea”, but it’s not Oscar nomination worthy. Overall, it’s an interesting film with some fine music and some good performances in a style that harkens back to the 50s/60s. I’ll give it 3 wine bottles out of 5. Afterwards, pick up a CD of some Bobby Darin music (but not the movie soundtrack). Maybe that’s all that Kevin really wanted to accomplish with this film. If that’s the case, he may have succeeded.