While neither Ray nor De-Lovely are comparable to animal droppings (how could they be with Taylor Hackford and Irwin Winkler directing), a third helping of musical biopic ihas become somewhat indigestible. I can indulge in a biography of Ray Charles; I can stomach an exploration of Cole Porter; but after Beyond the Sea's portrayal of yet another famous musician, I need some Tums. That's not to say the film lacks artistic merit, it's just the victim of bad timing. This time, Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey) is the musician in focus. He lived a successful -- albeit complicated -- life as a singer and actor until his death at the age 37... pretty decent considering he had a heart condition that was predicted to kill him as a teenager.
When his condition is diagnosed, the information devastates those who care for him, including his single mother (Brenda Blethyn), his older sister (Caroline Aaron), and her husband (Bob Hoskins). However, Bobby miraculously lives past his teenager years, and begins a journey to musical stardom. At age 20, his best friend and manager (John Goodman) lands him gigs at parties, clubs, and eventually, Vegas casinos. But Bobby won't settle with meager success. He wants everyone -- even the delivery guy -- to know his name.
Finally, hits like "Splish Splash" and "Mack the Knife" place him in a position of what he considers true stardom. And he does indeed achieve true stardom. Throughout the '50s, '60s, and '70s, Bobby lands more hits in more genres of music than any singer besides Elvis Presley and Ray Charles. Now that's fame.
As the film's director and producer, Spacey had the power to cast just about anyone as Darin, but he cast himself. Let's forget that Spacey is in his mid-forties and he's playing, at times, a character in his twenties. Let's focus, instead, on his talents. Spacey is a talented actor, and he has an Academy Award to prove it. But an actor only has himself to work with. As Darin, Spacey is stretching outside his performance range. Kudos to Spacey for challenging himself, and he does handle the character with energy, charisma, obvious fanaticism, and an appropriate demeanor. But he's not a great singer. He's not a great dancer. And, obviously, the role requires strong singing and dancing (with numerous "fantasy" musical sequences). How are we supposed to find ourselves involved in a movie about a legendary singer when the actor playing him can't sing that well?
Surprisingly, Spacey manages to pull it off anyway. It takes some suspension of disbelief and an ability to pretend Spacey is singing remarkably well (and that requires some major pretending), but he does mold a convincing portrayal of Bobby Darin by the end of the film. He owes a lot of the credit to the chemistry he shares with Kate Bosworth, who plays movie star Sandra Dee, whom Darin falls in love with while filming a project in Italy. Again, forget the age difference, Spacey and Bosworth make a charming pair reminiscent of idealistic Hollywood couples of the 1950s. It's a treasure to watch their performances as their relationship follows Darin's career.
The most captivating, memorable moment comes late in the film, when Bobby sings to a Vegas crowd about his feelings regarding Vietnam. At this point, Spacey's performance feels, at last, sincere -- so sincere, he transcends his limitations as a performer and creates a poignant, genuine, and inherently human depiction of Bobby Darin. If Spacey had handled the entire movie with such tender sincerity (and cast someone else as Darin), Beyond the Sea may have achieved something more... but as it stands, the film is simply a marginally successful experiment for Spacey to test his own abilities as an actor, while never providing a distinction between this and every other musical biopic.
Now... if you'll excuse me. I need some Tums.
Beyond the sea, there's a yellow suit waiting for you.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 26th November 2004
Box Office USA: $6.1M
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
Production compaines: Lionsgate
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 88
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Kevin Spacey
Screenwriter: Lewis Colick
Starring: Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin, Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee (Mrs Darin), John Goodman as Steve Blauner, Bob Hoskins as Charlie Cassotto Maffia, Brenda Blethyn as Polly Cassotto, Greta Scacchi as Mary Duvan, Michael Byrne as Dr. Andretti