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With a heart damaged by rheumatic fever, Walden Robert Cassotto - Little Bobby (William Ullrich) isn't supposed to live past 15. But when his mother Polly (Brenda Blethyn) shows him the happiness that comes with music, Bobby finds the inspiration he needs to stay alive - and a new, more commercial name: Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey). With the support of his older sister Nina (Caroline Aaron) and Nina's husband Charlie (Bob Hoskins), Bobby becomes a star. Working with his best friend and manager, Steve Blauner (John Goodman), Bobby charts his own stubbornly eclectic musical path, and even launches a movie career. He marries America's favorite young star, Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth), but his relentless professional ambition has begun to poison his private life, and the late 60s find him isolated, confused and directionless.

Review by Louise Keller:
A hybrid between a Hollywood musical and a biopic as it canvasses the life and times of crooner Bobby Darin, Beyond The Sea is primarily a showcase for the considerable talents of Kevin Spacey. We already know Oscar winner Spacey can act and some may have seen his 1996 directing debut of crime thriller Albino Alligator. Here, Spacey shows he can dance, sing and swing with the best of them. Yes, he sings like a dream with the same kind of immaculate phrasing and melodic fluidity that allowed Darin (born Walden Robert Cassolto) to be compared with Sinatra in the 60s. Spacey is worth the price of a ticket, but the film's structure gets in the way.

'Memories are like moonbeams - we do with them what we will,' says Darin, who uses the phrase as a licence to repurpose, represent and reassemble crucial parts of his life. It's the story of the boy from the Bronx, who marries picture perfect teen-queen actress Sandra Dee, and despite an outstandingly successful career as a pop singer, nightclub performer, actor and television star, struggles with happiness and his identity. Stacey gathers a strong cast including a big-hearted Bob Hoskins as his in-law and Brenda Blethyn as his mother Polly, who tells him as a child 'you can never go wrong with the truth.' She is the one who introduces him to music, opening the door to a world outside his reality and the respiratory illness that kept him bedridden as a child.

Caroline Aaron as Nina brings the film's most poignant moment, when Darin pays a special tribute on stage at his triumphant Las Vegas cabaret comeback. Kate Bosworth is perfect as the innocent and lovely Sandra Dee, whose name later became synonymous with that of her screen alter-egos, Gidget and Tammy.

There are similarities and differences between this and the Cole Porter bio-pic De-Lovely. Both films flash from the present to the past, and while Spacey's intention may have been to reconcile the man with the boy within, the constant leaps in time make us keep our distance. Musical numbers are excellent, but are indulgently played in full, a decision which works both for and against the film as a whole.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Being a fan of Bobby Darin's swinging singing and Kevin Spacey's articulate acting, I was frustrated at the delay in getting this film released in Australia. At one stage it was going straight to DVD and I couldn't understand why. Now I can: the film will attract Darin's fans, but most will be disappointed. Spacey, whose love of theatre is best symbolised by his taking on London's famed Old Vic as artistic director, fuses both theatrical and cinematic conventions to tell the story of Bobby Darin - clearly a fan of the man himself - in a sort of pastiche of biopic, musical, fantasy and autobiography.

The point of view is young Bobby's (talented little William Ullrich), who appears on screen with the old Bobby, and who is much wiser than his grown up self. He also plays piano and dances well. As acknowledged in the end credits, the film is not a traditional telling of Darin's life, and nobody portrayed has necessarily approved the film. While the bravado and risk taking is commendable, it is an inelegant rendition, crashing into itself at every turn as it challenges the audience to relate or understand the subject.

Spacey's choice of seasoned, well known British character actors like Brenda Blethyn and Bob Hoskins skew the film's tone, and the film's harsh visuals distance us from the emotional content. There is, however, one deeply moving scene towards the end, which, ironically, highlights what's lacking in the rest of it.

Spacey's singing is great and the musical numbers are enjoyable, superbly staged and shot; but the glue is missing, and the beautiful Kate Bosworth is left adrift in a movie that pays tribute to both Darin and Spacey's talents, but leaves us largely unsatisfied.

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi, Caroline Aaron

PRODUCER: Kevin Spacey, Jan Fantl, Andy Paterson

DIRECTOR: Kevin Spacey

SCRIPT: Kevin Spacey, Lewis Colick


EDITOR: Trevor Waite

MUSIC: Non original: Bobby Darin, Henry Mancini, Nino Oliviero, Riz Ortolani, Charles Trenet. Original: Mick Jagger (song Let It Loose), Christopher Slaski (incidental)

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes



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