Beyond the Sea



          If there was any sort of trend toward Oscar bait movies in 2004, one might argue that it was the
  biopic form that won out. Several key features about real-life individuals hit the screens with varying results.
  Some were dream project of the director (e.g.,
KINSEY), while others originated with the lead actor
  (Leonardo DiCaprio in
THE AVIATOR). Only one, though, became such an obsession that one man
  co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film. That dubious honor falls to Kevin Spacey
  and
BEYOND THE SEA.

          For Spacey, the ideal of portraying now-forgotten teen idol turned actor Bobby Darin in a movie
  has been a dream for nearly two decades. Over the years, other actors and directors flirted with the idea
  of turning Darin's short life into a movie, but there were always various roadblocks. Spacey persisted
  and eventually won the support of Darin's family and friends. For that, he can be commended. What he's
  put on screen, however, is another matter entirely.

          As with the equally offensive
DE-LOVELY, BEYOND THE SEA takes an odd approach to
  telling Darin's life. In the former, Cole Porter's life unfolded as a series of scenes in a stage musical. Spacey
  has opted to have Darin making a movie of his own life story. That prompts a reporter early in the film
  to quip that some say he's too old for the role, to which Darin's supporters chime in that he was born
  to play the role. While Spacey bears a slight resemblance to Darin, it's a mark of the hubris of this project
  that the line exists in the film. In fact, Spacey is some eight years older than Darin was at his death, and
  seeming him portray the teenage singer is almost as laughable as Diana Ross as Dorothy in
THE WIZ.

          In all honesty,
BEYOND THE SEA may become a camp classic along the lines of
  
MOMMIE DEAREST. The production numbers are staged ineptly and the choreography is low rent
  and wouldn't pass muster on a Vegas stage let alone in an MGM movie (which seems to be the ambition
  of the movie). The script is full of bad dialogue, epitomized by an Oscar night fight between Darin and
  then-wife Sandra Dee (embodied by the seemingly talentless Kate Bosworth).

          As a director, Spacey is ungenerous to his fellow performers. When actors the likes of Brenda
  Blethyn, Bob Hoskins and John Goodman are reduced to caricature, there is clearly something wrong.
  Spacey also allows Caroline Aaron to overemote and overact, so that a key confession that should be
  shocking and/or moving comes off badly. Only Greta Scacci as Dee's domineering stage mother
  manages to make an impression.

          But this is Spacey's show, and he has to bear the responsibility for its failure, including its lousy script
  and tepid direction. I will give the actor credit for having the chutzpah to sing the well-known songs. While
  he lacks the bite and phrasing that Darin brought to the music, Spacey does have a pleasant voice. The
  problem, of course, is that he isn't Darin. (Again, I hate to invoke her again, but it was the same flaw
  when Diana Ross portrayed Billie Holiday in
LADY SINGS THE BLUES; anyone at all familiar
  with Holiday's heartbreaking singing felt something was lacking.)

          There are several biographies about Darin (including one written by his son) that provide insight into
  the man.
BEYOND THE SEA, a highly fictionalized and stylized take on the singer's life, ultimately fails
  to inform the viewers. It says so much more about its leading man than it does about its subject.


                     
Rating:                     D-
                     MPAA rating:          PG-13 for some strong language and a scene of sensuality
                     Running time:          121 mins.
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.