Beyond the Sea
Biography captures early-Hollywood cinematic glamour
Beyond the Sea
Directed by Kevin Spacey
Cast: Kevin Spacey Kate Bosworth Bob Hoskins John Goodman
Walden Robert Cassotto's relentless drive, arrogance and charisma were a perfect recipe for superstardom. As an entertainer, he was absolutely remarkable. He had the moves, the humor, he was personable with his audience. He was Bobby Darin in all his egocentric, pseudo-confident glory. As his brother-in-law put it, the man we know as the singer of famous songs like "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea" was both Walden Robert Cassotto and Bobby Darin. He was still a child who was struggling to stay alive, and he was the entertainer everyone expected him to be.
Knowing what a super entertainer Darin was, who in this day and age would be suitable to play him? Any Bobby Darin fan would probably not be satisfied with anyone's portrayal of the actor. Nobody would ever be good enough, nor could they capture Darin's charm. How then, could a movie like this survive when expectations are built so high of a clearly imperfect man who was the perfect entertainer?
The film begins in the most unconventional manner, fooling audiences who are accustomed to predictable and literal biographies. Darin (Kevin Spacey) meets up with a child—his inner child (William Ullrich). They go back in time to Darin's childhood, his relationship with the mother that raised him, and his introduction to music. Darin was sick with rheumatic fever which left him with a weakened heart. He wasn't expected to live past his teenage years. His mother, who had a love for music, introduced him to her passion. Darin could play almost any instrument, he could sing and dance. "Music opened a whole new world to me," he said.
The film covers his rise to stardom and his struggle to be taken seriously, to become more famous than Frank Sinatra. His goal was to become a household name, everybody had to know who Bobby Darin was.
If Darin wanted something, he went after it until he got it. The scene where he woos Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) singing "Beyond the Sea" in a luring, seductive manner is just like a fairy tale. He walks down the stairs in a yellow zoot suit in that Gary Cooper, suave sort of way. The choreography in this scene and every other scene is simply breathtaking. The colors are brilliant and enticing. Everybody's dancing and loving life. The film captures that Hollywood magic that existed in Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly films.
Although the movie incorporates a lot of fantasy elements, it also reflects upon Darin's hardships as well—the death of his mother, a family secret that scarred him, his rocky marriage and fame's impact on his identity.
It is evident that Spacey is passionate about the entertainer. However, all the odds seemed to be against him from the beginning: his age, his voice and his looks. But his performance was superb and he definitely did Darin justice, mastering every one of his moves and capturing his signature style. Spacey wasn't an exact replica of Darin, but there were times where the resemblance was uncanny. His voice did have a certain Darin-esque quality (he improvised like Darin did, he made funny jokes, yelled out silly things in the middle of his songs and had fun with the music and the audience). The only thing that Spacey failed to perfect was Darin's innocent boyish quality.
The supporting actors in the film also helped revive the early-Hollywood cinematic magic. Kate Bosworth played a very delightful and innocent Sandra Dee. She makes the transformation from a young actress, who was sheltered by her domineering mother, to a desperate housewife who just wants her husband's attention. Bob Hoskins was the very encouraging brother-in-law, Charlie Maffia, who loved Darin like a son. Caroline Aaron, played Darin's "sister" who was tormented by a family secret. John Goodman plays Darin's manager, Steve Blauner, which wasn't a major role for him. Little Bobby was played by William Ullrich, who played an important role in the film, bringing the innocence and truth back to Darin. However, Spacey was the main star here. His hands were all over this project, directing it as well.
The film reflected Darin's love for music and battle with life. He would perform his heart out (literally) and have to go back stage for oxygen. He died much too young, but his legacy lives on through this film and in the hearts of his fans. Definitely Oscar material.