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|Beyond the Sea
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Kevin Spacey
scr Kevin Spacey, Lewis Colick
with Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, William Ullrich, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi, Caroline Aaron, Peter Cincotti, David Westhead, Tayfun Bademsoy, Matt Rippy
release US 24.Nov.04, UK 26.Nov.04
Splish splash I was takin' a bath: Spacey and Bosworth
While this biopic about singer-actor Bobby Darin has a somewhat contrived framing device, it's still a great story with very strong performances, especially from actor-director (and now also singer-dancer) Spacey!
We're watching a film within a film as Darin (Spacey) makes a movie about his life, starting as a physically fragile child (the gifted Ullrich), leading into his musical career and movie stardom with wife Sandra Dee (Bosworth). Along the way his mother (Blethyn) teaches him showmanship, his sister (Aaron) supports him at every step, his brother-in-law (Hoskins) is the father he never knew, and his manager (Goodman) struggles to keep up with his strong ideas.
Spacey directs the film with a lush attention to detail, strong cinematography, sensitive directorial touches and lively full-on musical interludes. The tricky script stays grounded in reality despite frequent surreal moments as well as the whole fantasy parallel universe in which old and young Darin interact. But the emotional through-line is strong enough to keep us engaged. And solid performances make the characters spring to life.
As an actor, we know Spacey can create memorable screen personalities, but who knew he was a song and dance man? His lively and energetic performance is a testament to Darin's raw tenacity; Spacey plays it brilliantly, even singing the songs himself. Sure, he's miscast when he's playing Darin as a 20-year-old, but he overcomes that with sheer charm. And all around him the supporting cast shines, especially Blethyn as his energetic mother and the astonishing Ullrich, who gets a showstopping scene late in the film that leaves us gasping with admiration.
With its surreal structure, the film feels a bit It's a Wonderful Life-like. The production design is overdone on several levels--costumes, sets, lighting, to name three. And the fantasy sequences are rather too frequent. But as Darin says, "Memories are like moonbeams--we do with them what we want." If it weren't such a compelling story we wouldn't stick with it. And it comes full circle as Spacey meaningfully touches on themes of responsibility and integrity in a powerfully provocative way.
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