Beyond The Sea Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey's five-year obsession with getting the Bobby Darin story down on celluloid manages to avoid full-blown "vanity picture" status mostly because Bobby Darin was just as peripheral to his art form as Spacey is to his. Spacey hasn't made an important film since American Beauty. Likewise, Darin's early career was full of promise, only to fall into irrelevance as pop culture moved on. It's almost as if Spacey (with writing, directing, producing and starring in the film) is doing what he hopes someone will do for him somewhere down the line. "My intention and my hope is that we'll introduce Bobby Darin to a whole generation for whom he isn't known," says Spacey in the DVD's "making of" featurette. Spacey does a decent job of recreating the legendary club singer's act; he's got the voice and the moves to get through all three of the film's big song and dance numbers. But at the time of filming, Spacey was a full seven years older than Darin was when he died at 37. So while he hits all the rights notes, his voice and mannerisms lack the youthful punch that characterises Darin's best work. The story tries to deal with the age discrepancy with a meta-narrative; the opening sequence reveals itself to be a film set, on which Darin is supposedly making a film about his own life. "You're too old to play Bobby Darin," someone yells at him from the audience of extras. "You're never to old to play yourself," is the reply. It's a book-clever moment but doesn't really solve the problem of Spacey's droopy cheeks and tired eyes. Beyond the Sea is not without its charms. Germany (where the film was shot) is a good stand-in for '50s and '60s America, and during some of the nightclub recreations, Spacey's persona dissolves enough to channel the real Darin. Ultimately, however, neither Spacey nor Darin withstand the scrutiny of this 118-minute biopic. The DVD includes a director/producer commentary and Spanish subtitles. (Maple)