Movies We Like
Beyond the Sea
Kevin Spacey is a weird case. He used to be so cool, so mysterious. Everyone had a theory about him. Though he had been kicking around the fringes of the film and television industry for years it wasn’t until his succession of three brilliant roles —as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects (1995), John Doe in Se7en (1995), and Jack Vincennes in L.A. Confidential (1997)—that he seemed to arrive as a fully formed movie star. Any one of those show stealing roles would have made any actor famous but to claim all three and make each performance so memorably iconic is a tribute to Spacey’s versatility as a performer and to his incredible knack for knowing how to sustain an audience’s interest without giving too much away.
But fame, though he clearly sought it, began to intrude on his privacy. His coy question dodging as to whether he was gay or not seemed par for the course ten years ago when closeted celebrities insisted they weren’t closeted while refusing to just say they were gay (think Rosie O’Donnell and Ricky Martin). But Spacey, whose golden years are well past him at this point, insisted again only recently that he shouldn’t have to disclose his sexual orientation—an act of self-censorship no heterosexual would ever dream of having to play along with. Would anyone really care one way or the other at this point? It reminds me of the Onion article about the “Area Man Who Thinks He’s Still in The Closet.”
Spacey’s work has suffered since his mid-'90s heyday and it does seem as though his heart’s not in the business of making movies anymore. But Beyond the Sea, his Bobby Darin biopic, was his ultimate passion project. For whatever reason Kevin Spacey felt he was put on this Earth to make this movie. In the first of several spectacularly questionable creative decisions Spacey insisted he play Darin even though he was much older than the young Darin he was playing.
What he made with Beyond the Sea is an old fashioned showbiz biopic where the story isn’t nearly as interesting as Spacey’s emotional investment in it. It’s such a personal film for Spacey, which makes its countless failures that much more exciting and, truthfully, kind of touching. There’s a delusional quality to his performance and to the film as a whole that makes it rather captivating. Apparently Spacey had commissioned several paintings of himself done of him as Bobby Darin. I love how weird that is.
Beyond the Sea is a noble failure. It’s not a particularly moving story because it's hard to click with what's going on. No one seems sure what kind of movie they're making except for Kevin. It does have some pizzazz during a couple of the musical numbers, including one with Spacey in an awesome pair of yellow pants. It's not enough to redeem the film but all the same, Beyond the Sea is worth seeing for the glimpse it gives us into Spacey’s pure reverence for Darin. Through his character and the many curious aspects of this film we get to see into the mind of a very private person and what we find is both sweet and a little odd.