Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beyond the Sea

By David Luhrssen
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Beyond the Sea was a labor of love for Kevin Spacey, but the film’s distribution amounted to a blink and miss proposition. Most of us missed it during its brief theatrical run. The 2004 film is out on DVD and will be shown July 10 on TV Guide Network.

Spacey loves the music of Bobby Darin and his fondness shines through the story’s razzle-dazzle, on with the show theatrics as it traces Darin’s curious career. Born to poverty in NYC and afflicted with rheumatic fever in childhood, he wasn’t expected to live past 15. But with the encouragement of his family, Darin was determined to become the next Sinatra.

He entered the field from the left-hand side with an ebullient rock’n’roll hit called “Splish Splash.” As the film shows, Darin was eager to trade “American Bandstand” for the Copacabana. In the late ‘50s he crisscrossed the nascent youth culture with an international edition of the Great American Songbook (two of his biggest hits, “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea,” were of European origin). Drawn to social protest in the ‘60s, he ventured unsuccessfully into singer-songwriter folk. And then he died.

Spacey directed and starred, smuggling an old time song and dance musical into a biopic genre film. Perhaps Hollywood cold-shouldered Beyond the Sea in 2004 because it seemed slightly out of time, just like Darin himself.

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