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A Reel View: Beyond the Sea

A Reel View
Beyond the Sea
by James M. Gullard

The late 1950s and early 60s were a time, much like today, where entertainers ruled the world. Most of the time, these entertainers were aware of the power they possessed, constantly yearning to be bigger and better than everyone in their path. As displayed in last year's biopic "Beyond the Sea," singer Bobby Darin was no exception.
The film begins as a "film within a film" with Darin (Kevin Spacey) shooting a movie about his life, starring himself, of course. When tension mounts on the set, the young Bobby (William Ullrich) tells his adult counterpart that he has the story all wrong. He insists that the film should open at the beginning of his life.
The story flashes back to Bobby's youth. At the age of seven, he is diagnosed with rheumatic fever, leaving him with a weak heart. The doctors tell him that he will not live past fifteen. Raised by his mother (Brenda Blethyn), a former entertainer, as well as his sister Nina (Caroline Aaron) and her husband Charlie (Bob Hoskins), Bobby is introduced to music. As he grows older, his musical talents begin to excel. His mother's dream is to have him play the Copacabana and become more famous than Frank Sinatra, if only he had the chance to live past his teens.
Despite his condition, Bobby continues to go on strong. With the help of Charlie and his new manager Steve (John Goodman), Bobby sets out to make his dream a reality, but a handful of mediocre performances puts a dent in his plan. He vows not to give up, and eventually finds success with a goofy song he wrote in ten minutes called "Splish Splash."
Bobby becomes a hit, even making an appearance on "American Bandstand." His success as a performer leads him to Hollywood, where he is cast in the film "Come September" alongside the beautiful Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth). After a rough start, they fall in love, much to the disapproval of Dee's mother (Greta Scacchi). The two are soon married, becoming Hollywood's next "power couple." But both performers are in the peaks of their careers, which in Hollywood, does not usually end well.
There is no doubt that this is Kevin Spacey's film. He not only stars, but directed, produced, and co-wrote the film with Lewis Colick ("Ladder 49"). But this deserves to be Spacey's film. His performance is excellent. From his personality to his mannerisms, Spacey will make you believe that he is Bobby Darin, a part that he has said that he was born to play.
Spacey also does all of his own singing, which is the highlight of the film, considering his voice is magnificent. It may even be possible that Spacey is, at times, a better singer than Darin was. Whatever the preference, from "Dream Lover" to "Mack the Knife," all of Bobby's best songs are here.
Although virtually ignored by most award ceremonies this year, "Beyond the Sea" is highly entertaining, providing the perfect balance of music and drama to match Darrin's real life. But with Kevin Spacey in charge, was there ever any doubt?
"Beyond the Sea" is now available on DVD and video.

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