Spacey plays a middle-aged version of the once very popular Bobby Darin, who
fictionally decides to make a movie about his career, in Beyond the Sea.
Confused about what direction he would like the film to take on, Darin
consults a blunt fan of his, who happens to be co-starring in his film as
Young Bobby. The two decide that the movie best begin by focusing on Darin’s
childhood, at the time in which he fell ill to a strong case of rheumatic
fever and was told that he wouldn’t live to fifteen by his doctor. Several
following scenes show Bobby’s mother (Brenda Blethyn) training him to make
records and put on stage-shows, in hopes that he will develop a passion for
performing and, hence, find the will to live a long life. Before long, his
career develops and his dreams of matching Sinatra’s fame become more of a
reality with the passing of each day.
Beyond the Sea’s movie-in-a-movie structure
works up until its conclusion, in which it becomes a burden to the story
that is being told, outside of the film that Darin is making. It allows
viewers to easily understand every part of Darin’s life, yes. But, the main
problem with it is that it allows the audience to know that every chapter
that takes place in the motion picture that the singer fictionally films, in
Beyond the Sea, has already been overcome. I never really sympathized
for the Bobby Darin character because of this and, as his health began to
deteriorate at the end of my screening of Beyond the Sea, I was
mostly apathetic towards him.
Most critics have praised the structure as
ingenious, in that it allows the forty-five-year-old Spacey to be able to
logically play a much younger version of Darin. From this perspective, one
could certainly argue that, without it, Beyond the Sea would shift
from suffering from a lack of emotional resonance to being downright
nonsensical. This is a solid point, but I am still unconvinced that there
wasn’t a better route that Spacey, who, in addition to acting in the film,
co-wrote and directed it, could’ve taken in its making.
Just as it was with last summer’s De-Lovely,
the mediocrity of Beyond the Sea’s sketchy writing and basic
direction—which can be more easily forgiven here than in the former picture,
as it marks Spacey’s debut as a writer and sophomoric outing as a
director—is elevated by its terrific performances. Spacey, himself, has
rarely been better in any movie. It is said that Darin is an idol to him,
and this certainly shows through in Beyond the Sea. He is electric,
passionate, and convincing in his role. Also, as Darin’s movie-star wife,
Sandra Dee, Kate Bosworth is excellent. Bosworth has proved that she has a
great amount of talent in independent films such as this one and 2003’s
John-Holmes-based heavy-hitter, Wonderland. I hope that she finds
something more mainstream to star in, in the future, and allows the masses
to see how gifted she is, in something more inspired than the very fun, but
airy Blue Crush.
It would be foolish of me not to mention how
wonderful the music is in Beyond the Sea. Spacey redoes all of Bobby
Darin’s old hits for the soundtrack, and succeeds in doing so. There are
many performance sequences and, aside from the intimate scenes between
Spacey and Bosworth, they are the best parts of the film, showing off the
star’s killer voice and studied mannerisms.
Beyond the Sea is never boring, but had
Spacey taken the easy way out and hired a writer and a director with more
experience in filmmaking, I think it could’ve been a much better movie.
Still, his passion for the material is clear, and he shows this, both in
front of and behind the camera. The achievement that Beyond the Sea
represents is definitely something more personal than anything a third-party
could’ve brought to the table, even if it isn’t as skilled.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews
(Posted in 12.28.2004-2.5.2005 Update)
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