From CNN's Entertainment Section
December 17, 2004
By Kevin Spacey
Special Guest Writer for CNN.com
'Beyond' good, thanks to Spacey
CNN) -- Some people have tried to dismiss Kevin Spacey's new film "Beyond the Sea" as just another movie star's vanity project. After all, this two-time Oscar winner's often-expressed passion for bringing the life of singer Bobby Darin to the big screen is well documented.
But in this film he inhabits Darin to the point where you can't escape a feeling of awe for his performance -- and a deep respect for his commitment to telling the story of this remarkably talented performer.
Spacey, who's 45, has been criticized as too old to play Darin, who died at age 37 in 1973 after emergency heart surgery. However, since Spacey not only stars in "Beyond the Sea," but also wrote, produced and directed the movie, he was able to structure the story in a way that helps a great deal in getting past the age problem. In fact, there were times when I imagined that if anything, Spacey looked too young to be convincing as a mid-30's Darin.
The film's conceit is that Darin is making a movie about his life. This movie within the movie allows us to meet him towards the end of that life as he looks back in time. In his film debut, 11-year-old William Ullrich plays Darin as a boy. Spacey -- as Darin -- interacts with the boy on the set of this imaginary movie and singer's story unfolds.
Impossible to categorize
Spacey comes through winningly: he isn't just a great actor, he's also an unexpectedly good singer -- handling the vocals himself -- and surprisingly light on his feet. (Indeed, he's been on a concert tour performing Darin songs with all of Darin's stagecraft.)
His talents were enough to win over Darin's son Dodd and former manager Steve Blauner (who's in the film, played by John Goodman). Indeed, they were so convinced of Spacey's talents they actually provided Ramone with Darin's original arrangements.
Spacey doesn't shy away from the dysfunctional areas of Darin's life. The singer struggled with depression, marital problems and career ups and downs as styles changed around him. His family also has a secret, one that Darin didn't learn until mid-career. Along the way we also witness his incredible bravery in the face of a major illness and his refusal to be categorized. In one very special scene, Spacey nails the anguish and fight of this battered man, leaving the theater emotionally drained but ultimately awestruck at the breadth of the actor's talent - an inherent ease in portraying mankind's pathos.
"Beyond the Sea" is a solid group effort, but ultimately it's Spacey's show. Goodman, Blethyn, Hoskins and Aaron surround the lead with terrific performances, further enhancing what was already an amazing performance.
Many people under 40 may not even remember Bobby Darin, let alone know about his remarkable life story. "Beyond the Sea" may rectify that problem and stand as a wonderful tribute to an amazing talent who left us all too soon - and to any even greater talent in the actor Kevin Spacey.
I, er, I mean, he does it again.