We just finished watching “Beyond the Sea”, the Bobby Darin biopic starring and directed by Kevin Spacey.
Hmmm. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t that good either.
To start with, they use as a framing device the idea that Darin is making a movie about his own life. This comes up in the beginning and never again, except that the kid playing Darin in the movie somehow becomes the actual young Darin and follows him around. Bleh. It was kind of a cross between every biopic ever and Cold Case.
Then, to that conceit is added another-The Watch. Spacey and the kid have a watch (get it? Because clocks are metaphors for hearts-tick tock! Get it? Do ya?), and every once in a while the kid shows up and ominously says something like, “My watch is slowing down.”
The actual events of Darin’s life are skimmed over; the film prefers to focus on his obsession with his Mom and his singing. So one minute he meets Sandra Dee and falls instantly in love (I guess), then they spend a few days together with her Mom, then one day alone, then they’re married. Her Mom forces Sandra to choose between them. Sandra chooses Bobby. We guess her Mom really meant it because we never see her again. Then in the blink of an eye they have a kid, then he’s like five, then Bobby Kennedy is killed and Darin goes off to live by himself in a trailer and write simpering, facile protest songs about how “the people” don’t want war. Somewhere in there he and Sandra divorced, I guess, but that’s not really made clear.
Then he figures out that if he sings those songs in a snazzy suit with an African-American choir behind him, people will swallow that feeble crap. Seriously, this ain’t “Blowin in the Wind” we’re talking about here, and even that isn’t that great. (“Like A Rolling Stone”, of course, is fantastic, but I digress.)
Then he’s dead…or is he?!?! Because as he’s being loaded into an ambulance, we’re treated to the following:
Darin, singing by himself, lit by a spotlight, in a darkened club;
The kid, picking up the now-stopped watch, and throwing it;
The watch becoming the head of Darin’s microphone.
Then, Darin starts singing “As Long As I’m Swinging”, with the kid. A duet, between the Old and Young Darins. This turns into a full-blown dance routine, and they’re joined by other men and boys-a NAMBLA chorus line, if you will. The point of this tedious exercise is underlined in the inevitable “updates” just before the credits (after, of course, the stage lights have gone off, so we REALLY understand what’s happened). They tell us that “Robert Quessado (or whatever his real name was) died in 1973. Bobby Darin is still swinging!”
That’s right, folks-the deep and important message here is that Bobby Darin lives on through his music! Can you believe it?! I’ve never heard that sentiment before!
That, or “Every time Bobby Darin sings, an angel gets its wings.”
Whichever you prefer.