There was some concern when it was announced that Kevin Spacey was going to play singer Bobby Darin, and there was additional anxiety over Kate Bosworth ("Blue Crush")'s ability to portray his love, Sandra Dee. Unfortunately for Spacey, the picture didn't make much of an impact at the box office and reviews were mixed. After the release, things turned more positive for the actor as he surprised many by going on a musical tour that turned out to be very successful (Spacey does the singing in "Beyond the Sea".)
"Beyond" is obviously a labor of love for the actor, who wrote, directed and acts in the picture. The picture starts off detailing the singer's childhood illness, as well as how his mother (Brenda Blethyn) encouraged him. The opening also sets up a film-within-a-film structure, with mini-Bobby (William Ullrich) learning about the real Darin's life from Darin himself.
We go through many of the events in Darin's life, including his marriage to Sandra Dee (Bosworth, pretty good), his acting career, the rise and fall of his singing career, a surprise about his mother and his eventual comeback attempt with a protest song, which was met with indifference. The picture moves along at a fairly decent pace, although losing a musical number here and some filler there could have even made the picture a bit tighter. The framing device also never seemed entirely necessary, just as something similar didn't in "De-Lovely".
Spacey's love of the singer - he's been wanting to play this role for years - seems to have gotten in the way somewhat when it came to telling this story. There's really little conflict here, and instead, the picture starts to feel rather like a Bobby Darin highlight reel. Spacey's performance certainly isn't bad, though: the actor manages to sing pretty superbly, and he does fine with the rest of the material. I actually didn't mind a great deal that he is essentially too old to play Darin at this point. Bosworth, good in "Blue Crush" and other roles, does better than her prior efforts would suggest in a more dramatic role here. Providing good supporting efforts are John Goodman and Bob Hoskins.
"Beyond the Sea" is technically respectable and one can obviously see how Spacey felt about the project. However, there's just something about the picture that never quite connected for me: it does provide an exploration of the events of Darin's life, but never really gets into what makes him tick.
VIDEO: "Beyond the Sea" is presented by Lion's Gate in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I quite liked this effort from the studio, as it presented Eduardo Serra ("Girl With a Pearl Earring")'s cinematography pretty splendidly. Sharpness and detail were not always remarkable, but the picture's slight softness at times seemed intentional. Mostly, the picture offered a nice, consistent level of detail and definition.
The presentation showed very few concerns. Some light shimmer and a few instances of edge enhancement presented themselves, but really didn't cause much distraction at all. No pixelation was spotted, nor were any print flaws - no specks, marks, dirt or other debris are visible. Colors looked bright and natural, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Beyond the Sea" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Given the material, it's understandable that this isn't a particularly aggressive sound mix. However, the surrounds do get some action providing some reinforcement of the music and slight ambience. Aside from that, the remainder of the audio is nicely spread out across the front soundstage. Audio quality is crisp and clear, as dialogue/singing, music and effects/ambience sounded full and rich, with nice detail and clarity.
EXTRAS: The biggest supplement on the disc is a commentary with writer/director Kevin Spacey and producer Adam Paterson. While Spacey has never been the most energetic fellow in interviews, he sounds even more subdued on this commentary with his co-producer. Spacey does most of the talking, and offers up some good details about the sets, working with the actors and his approach to telling the story. It's a bit dry and slow, but fans of the film may find this track to be of interest.
There's also a short "making of" featurette and trailers.
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed aspects of "Beyond the Sea", but never was completely involved with the movie. Spacey's performance and singing are fine, but the movie slides through Darin's years without ever getting too in-depth and without showing much conflict. Bosworth and Spacey, while both providing good performances, never really have much chemistry, either. The DVD provides very good video quality, fine audio and a decent helping of supplements. Rent it.
The Film C+