Kevin Spacey is (or rather was, in 2004) far too old to play a young Bobby Darin, the musical artist who is perhaps best known for his hit “Splish Splash”. This is a fact that Spacey himself admits within the scope of his semi-biographical film. In an early scene we see Darin being informed he’s far too old to play himself in his film biography, but this doesn’t dissuade him from doing so; the same way that Spacey placed himself in the lead roll for a film about a man living primarily in his 20s while he himself was in his 40s. Beyond the Sea is a musical centering around the life and career of one of the greatest night club singers of all time: Bobby Darin. Directed, co-written and starring Kevin Spacey, we’re given a polished up glimpse into the sordid affairs of a national icon. We see what drove him, the struggles he was forced to overcome, his ego and his health problems that plagued him his entire life. I’m not completely familiar with the life story of Bobby Darin, but a quick internet search can shed light to the facts pertaining to this movie. Rather, I would like to focus on the aspect of why this movie is worth your time.
Despite the massive discrepancy in age between how old Darin is supposed to be in the film and how old Spacey is in actuality we’re given a performance that is completely packed with emotion. And it isn’t just Spacey that gives a powerful performance, John Goodman plays “Boom Boom”, Darin’s agent and Kate Bosworth plays an excellent Sandra Dee. Darin has such a huge ego throughout the course that when set next to Sandra Dee’s strong will the emotions just naturally flow through both actors, oozing out of the screen and into the consciousness of the audience. Shortly after Darin fails to procure an Oscar, one of the most entertaining, and best acted arguments I’ve seen in recent memory erupts from the screen; the scene involves Darin threatening to leave his wife, Sandra Dee. in response she becomes enraged at the idea that HE would leave HER. She refuses to allow him to leave before she does. As they hurl verbal insults at each other they both race to fill their suit cases and take their own cars in an attempt to be the one doing the actual leaving. The solid performances put in by the entire supporting cast is simultaneously convincing and entertaining, allowing for a good mixture of comedy and drama.
The world that these incredibly talented actors are set in is, quite simply, beautiful. The premise of the movie is that a biographical film ins being made about Bobby Darin spanning over three decades, the seams between reality and fiction are blurred so much that it becomes incredibly easy to forget that the elaborate dance numbers and sets are all part of the facade, to the point that it’s hard to tell if it ever was a facade and not just the reality that the film is based in. The dance numbers are stunning as well, taken strait out of an old time Hollywood flick in which every cast member must not only act, but sing and dance as well. This is, after all, a biography about Bobby Darin, there has to be music, a beat that pulses through the entirety of the film. That pulse is felt and heard through the entire movie, sure it slows when Bobby seems to have lost himself, but it inevitably beats stronger as he finds himself. Darin belonged on the stage, that was something that everyone around him knew, but that he sometimes forgot. The music he created parades through the course of the movie non-stop, it compliments the phenomenal acting, the beautiful set pieces and elaborate dance numbers to the point that you can’t separate one aspect of this movie from the other.
The slump in this movie happens roughly three quarters through the film, at which point the vibrant and vivacious Darin succumbs to bouts of depression and sets off to find himself. It’s not that this isn’t an important aspect of the movie, it’s just the drastic change in pace that seems somewhat jolting. The slower pace only lasts for a short time, almost as a way for Darrin to take care of a few things before approaching the final act of the film. And what a final act it is. Beyond the Sea is a celebration of life, as ugly and devastating as it sometimes can be.