I had wanted to see Beyond the Sea, the Kevin Spacey film about Bobby Darin, when it was released in December 2004, but I never got around to it probably because I am not that familiar with Darin, only a small handful of his songs. My interest in the film was in seeing Spacey, an actor whose work continues to delight me in film after film. For my money, The Usual Suspects and L.A. Confidential would have suffered without his brilliant performances.
Beyond the Sea was less a biography in the tradition of Ray or Walk the Line, and more of a musical in the true sense of the term. Spacey takes a clever approach to telling Darin's story, stepping out of the narrative at times, framing his story with a dialogue between Darin as an adult and as a child. Spacey has a remarkable voice, more than held his own in the dance numbers, and he brought a passion for the subject matter that overrode my disinterest toward Darin and his career.
The reviews had been mixed: for every critic who praised Spacey and his achievement as an actor, director, producer and writer of the film, there was harsh criticism that the film and Spacey's performance were vainglorious. My take is this: it was a risk to make a film about Bobby Darin, and Spacey's approach was bold. He took the chance in performing Darin's songs and it paid off in spades.
We finished watching Beyond the Sea and my wife said, "I think Kevin Spacey's my new favorite actor." I could not disagree. He is a talented performer with an unusual but powerful screen presence.
When I turned off the DVD there was another Spacey movie on IFC, a little gem called The Big Kahuna. "The best movie ever made about evangelism" is how my friend Rick describes it. Yeah, Spacey was great in that one, too. He just might be my new favorite actor.