The LA Weekly was right: Beyond the Sea was the most misunderstood movie of 2004. It’s not a straight biopic but a study of the idea of immortality–which is particularly poignant here given that the subject is Bobby Darin, a performer who lived in the shadow of death due to cardiac problems he had since he was a child. Kevin Spacey’s dedication is clear, both in his performance as Darin and in his wonderful direction, crafting a pastiche of styles borrowed from 8½, Citizen Kane, and West Side Story. That last film came to mind as I watched the sumptuous and entertaining musical numbers–drenched in beautifully photographed primary colors! This is clearly a labor of love for Spacey, and he deserves great credit for taking on a stale genre and livening it up with a terrific performance and a sharp directorial eye. Another extraordinary performance comes from William Ullrich who plays Darin as a child and re-appears throughout the movie, representing Darin’s younger soul, the corporeal part of him fated for an early death. Spacey and Ullrich have a great song-and-dance scene together and their interaction is sad and profound. The weakest link in Spacey’s movie is the script itself–co-written by him and Lewis Colick. Its charting of Darin’s rise to fame is strictly connect-the-dots; Darin’s stardom, as depicted here, never quite feels earned and clips along in a rather predictable fashion. Otherwise, kudos to Spacey for his courageous efforts.
Directed by: Kevin Spacey
Screenplay by: Kevin Spacey, Lewis Colick
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, William Ullrich