Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest Bobby Darin of them all? The real one of course, although the mirror hanging over Kevin Spacey’s vanity might have a different answer. Much like basking in front of your own image, Spacey’s Beyond the Sea is a vanity project, albeit one with some interesting layers surrounding it.
Bobby Darin wasn’t supposed to live to see the end of his teenage years due to a weak heart. While he still didn’t live a long life, he was around for enough time to make himself a legend among crooners. And now with Spacey (a virtual look-alike) not only starring but directing, writing and producing as well, Darin’s legend has now been taken to another level worthy of one man’s trophy case.
The film’s setup is a curious one. It’s a biopic within a biopic with Spacey playing Darin whose playing Darin. Sounds confusing and convoluted and in some ways it is. At the same time, it takes a unique approach in delving into the subject matter a little deeper. Beyond the Sea doesn’t simply present Darin’s life as a series of chronological events. By having the lead character jump in and out of the film’s reality it adds some commentary on who Darin might have been (it’s tough to tell when the real Darin passed away at the age of 37).
But because Spacey so openly acknowledges the creation of legend as something bigger than it actually may have been, it’s hard to tell where the truth lies and where Spacey’s vanity takes over. Spacey’s presence is so dominating that there are times that you forget that he’s playing somebody else and see Spacey as himself. By starring and directing, not to mention having his name and vocals prominently splashed all over the soundtrack, Spacey won’t let you forget that Beyond the Sea is his baby. If that’s the case, who is the film a tribute to: Darin or Spacey?
It’s tough to criticize someone for doing too good a job. In the case of Spacey, his magnificent performance in front of the camera may have caused him to be distracted from what was going on behind it. The rest of the cast simply lurks in Spacey’s shadow. Kate Bosworth plays Darin’s movie star wife Sandra Dee. In real life the two were of similar age. However Spacey is 24 years Bosworth’s senior. Likely unintentional, the age difference adds a layer that screams cradle robber.
Despite displaying one of his better performances (and that’s saying a lot when you scan his filmography), there’s too just too much navel gazing on Spacey’s part. He’s too close to the film to see it objectively.
Beyond the Sea Gallery
Beyond the Sea Trailer