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Bobby Darin Swings Again in Hollywood Biopic

Daniel Kassell By

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Kevin Spacey
Beyond the Sea
Lions Gate
2004

The diminutive Bobby Darin first drew attention as a teen idol singer-songwriter with "Splish Splash." Confident of his talent as a Bronx, NY pianist, guitarist and drummer he then insisted on doing an album of standards That's All that reflected his admiration of Louis Armstrong and made "Mack the Knife" another hit.

In Beyond the Sea producer Kevin Spacey's biopic of Bobby Darin's life, the too old Spacey attempts to be a youthful Darin in the same way thousands of middle-aged singers imitate their idols. As a singer Spacey pulls this off by enlisting delightful child actors, faux reality flashbacks wherein he either narrates or performs.

Opening with Darin's Tenth Anniversary show rehearsal of "Mack The Knife" - a hip cool- confident Spacey, an imitation big band dubbed by an exceptional Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London conducted by John Wilson with original arrangements supplied by Darin's Manager Steve Blauner (John Goodman) with offspring Dodd Darin's permission and performed with assistance from Bobby's original Music Director-pianist Dick Behrke (played on-screen by wonder kid pianist Peter Cincotti because Spacey saw him perform in a London club).

A screenplay flashback directly raises the question, "How can you be too old to play yourself?" and again flashes back to Darin's talented mother (Brenda Blethyn) playing Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy River" typifying "A world [he] could live within," referring to the presumed effects of Darin's childhood rheumatic fever. Then downstairs on a Bronx Street (actually Germany's spacious Marlene Dietrich soundstage) Spacey and a huge company parade to "Blue Skies" to excellent digital big band sound that brings life to the dancing.

Darin meets Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) doing "Come September" and steals her away from a watchful mother (Greta Scacchi) on a Vespa for their first romantic kiss as "Dream Lover" plays in the background presumably piped in from Hollywood heaven because "he wants a girl to love." Remember it's 1961.

Offered an opportunity to appear at New York's Copacabana, Darin purposefully changes their "policy" by insisting on a black comedian opening his show. Sandra's quip, "People hear what they see," inspires Darin to do Vegas's Flamingo opposite Flip Wilson. However, Darin has progressive notions and prefers to do rebellious folk songs and hits with "Simple Song of Freedom" complete with wonderful gospel singers in red robes but after each production number must take oxygen from a portable tank in a silver suitcase.

Ending with "The Curtain Falls" Kevin Spacey holds the long tones exactly like Darin in a proper finale for this biopic. On the reprise "As Long As I'm Singing" pianist Peter Cincotti's proud smile paralleled my emotions. The credits run to a swinging "Some of These Days," the Shelton Brooks standard.

His magic producer Phil Ramone believed, "Bobby Darin did everything. He did blues. He did spirituals. He did folk music He covered every genre, but what he added to all of them was the street."

Want more of Spacey as Darin? The Atco Rhino CD (R2 78444) is out and a Beyond the Sea DVD is soon to follow.

Visit the Beyond the Sea website .


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