Published Dec 01, 2004Kevin Spacey assays the role of Bobby Darin, but not even his considerable acting talents can save this from his failure as a writer/director. The film begins with Darin attempting to make a film about his short but eventful life; his younger self shows up to keep him honest, and so he's forced to take stock of the events leading up to his early death.
The film is packed with incidents all right: the rheumatic fever that shortened his life but powered his drive, his humble Bronx origins and upbringing by an ex-vaudevillian "mother" (Brenda Blethyn), the first hit "Splish, Splash" that gave him the clout to attack the standards, and the rocky marriage to Sandra Dee (a spot-on Kate Bosworth) marred by his self-absorption and constant touring.
He's a good subject for a movie, but Spacey is too much of an ardent fan and too conventional in his approach to attempt any variation on the standard biopic clichés: Darin isn't just a popular singer, he's a media god, and his early career is made to seem defiant when in fact he's turning his back on the nascent pop avant-garde of rock'n'roll.
Though it becomes slightly more interesting when he hits a career slump in the '60s he flirts with politics only to be crushed by Bobby Kennedy's assassination, and tries to redefine himself as a protest singer with disastrous results it's still pretty shallow, marred by too-perfect period design and some precious Fellini-esque fantasy sequences that underline Spacey's lack of cinematic know-how.
Beyond The Sea wants badly to be All that Jazz, but it's square and idolatrous enough to a cable special, and I suspect that cable is the oblivion to which the film will ultimately be consigned. (Lions Gate)