You have to appreciate Kevin Spacey’s willingness to give a dedication to Bobby Darin. “Beyond the Sea” basically came and went into theaters, and is still an apparent work of love from the man. Sadly, it’s also a pretty bad film, and utterly grueling to sit through. This is not based on some close-minded thought just because it’s old music. This is because the film is actually quite bad. I like Bobby Darin’s music, but Spacey is basically all over the map with his pet project.
Sometimes he wants it to be a musical, sometimes he wants a film that shows the dark side of Darin, sometimes he seems to deify the man, and sometimes he reaches for drama that’s inadvertently funny. And not the “god that’s stupid” funny, but the embarrassing funny. Take for example the scene when Darin decides to go folk. Under better circumstances it could have been a wrenching sequence, but when you see it, it’s sadly comical, and rather forced. “Beyond the Sea” is a grandiose piece of schmaltzy vanity, it’s an ironic picture about a vain man played by Spacey who comes off as vain man. He plays Darin in all forms, and sings all the songs.
The sad fact about both of those aspects is that Spacey is hardly convincing as a young man starting out in the business, and his make up is rather terrible, while his covers are basically karaoke covers, and hardly very devoted to capturing the spirit of the man. In the end we have a badly painted older man playing a young man and immensely unconvincingly. And when he meets Sandra Dee it becomes flat, and uninspired. The two court one another, and Spacey revels in a long musical number that felt forced rather than in the spirit of a typical musical. I love musicals, I love most of them, but “Beyond the Sea” tries anxiously to be one, and never pulls it off, because it seems that when the writers have no idea how to write character relationships, they simply resort to musical numbers that paint Darin as a glossy romantic.
The sudsy romance between Dee and Darin is poorly played, and was later better explored in “Walk the Line” where I actually believed two experienced singers were falling for one another. Here, it ends up as rambling and awfully cheesy. “Beyond the Sea” is ambitious but utterly misguided, and has no idea where to go most times. Spacey’s film is utterly self-congratulatory and aggrandizing, and ends as a pretty terrible bio-pic reaching for an Oscar, and failing. Sheesh, I really expect better from Spacey, and “Beyond the Sea” was not his best. Work of love or not, his musical/bio film for Darin is cheesy, irritating, and rambling. Spacey doesn’t pass as Darin, and everything else is flat. It’s a sad state of affairs.