January 19, 2005 -- Bobby Darin was one of the great entertainers of the 1960s, like Frank Sinatra or Elvis, but more versatile. He covered the fields of rock and roll, pop, folk and even the big band sound. He lived for the stage. His life story is compelling. Kevin Spacey is a huge fan of Darin's, so when he made a movie about Bobby, you just had to know he was going to give it everything he's got. He does just that in “Beyond the Sea,” a movie Spacey merely co-writes, produces, directs, stars and sings in.
Spacey does more than just act like Bobby Darin in this movie, he becomes Darin. He not only mimics Darin's on stage presence, he sings like him. That's right, Spacey does his own singing in the movie and he does a terrific job on those musical numbers. Who knew he had such a great singing voice? Some people, like critic Roger Ebert, say Spacey sings better than Darin himself. I don't know about that, but he is certainly in the ballpark with Darin. Spacey is a better singer than a lot of pop stars, past and present.
The story is a movie-within-a-movie. We see the older Darin late in his career, making a movie about his life, complete with musical numbers. This is a clever set up for the story because it allows Spacey to play Darin both early and late in his career. Young Bobby Darin is played by William Ullrich. At times in the movie, the young Darin speaks to the older Darin about the meaning of his life and the meaning of the movie he is making. In addition to these fanciful conversations there are lush fantasy scenes, including big song and dance numbers like the ones popularized in Hollywood musicals of the 1950s. We see lots of people dancing in the streets of New York. The script, by Lewis Colick and Spacey is very imaginative.
Spacey, a great actor, is in top form as Darin. Equally good is Kate Bosworth of “Blue Crush” as Darin's wife, movie star Sandra Dee. Also giving exceptional performances are Bob Hoskins of “Vanity Fair” as Darin's brother-in-law, Charlie Cassotto Maffia, Brenda Blethyn of “Saving Grace” as Darin's mother, Polly Cassotto, and Caroline Aaron of “Crimes and Misdemeanors” as Nina, Darin's sister. Also giving a good performance is John Goodman of “O Brother Where Art Thou?” as Darin's manager, Steve Blauner. The musical and dance numbers in the film are excellent. The story is compelling.
Darin was an outstanding performer on the stage, and a fine actor, who received an Academy Award supporting actor nomination for his role in the film, “Captain Newman, M.D.” Like many performers, he had his personal demons to deal with, but the movie doesn't dwell on depressing stuff too much.
There are some nice fantasy sequences and some well-staged big night club musical numbers. There are some nice little digital tricks, too, like a scene were a poster of Sinatra morphs into a poster of Darin at the Copacabana. The romance between Darin and Dee is nicely handled, as is Darin's relationship with his family. Oh yeah, and in addition to starring in this film, Spacey also produced and directed it. This film rates a B.
For more information on this film, including about the film, cast, filmmakers, downloads, views, timeline (milestones in Darin's career), click on this link to the official home page of Beyond the Sea.