Beyond the Sea [2004]

The chameleon-like actor Kevin Spacey is best known for playing pyschopaths (in Seven and The Usual Suspects) and capturing a creepy mid-life crisis in American Beauty--but surprisingly, playing crooner Bobby Darin, Spacey does some snappy dancing and top-notch singing. Beyond the Sea puts Darin's life through a bit of a kaleidoscope: While singing Darin's most memorable hit, "Mack the Knife," Darin suddenly stops the show, revealing that he's not at a nightclub, but in the middle of a shooting a scene about his life as a nightclub performer. Why has he stopped? Because he's just seen himself as a young boy, peering from behind a curtain. Such self-conscious narrative twists recur throughout the movie, turning Darin's fight for fame and respect into a love story between his adult and childhood selves. Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), a hugely popular movie star in her own right, was supposedly the love of Darin's life, but she never holds his attention as does his childhood self (played by newcomer William Ullrich). It's a striking metaphor for the narcissism that drives such success-hungry entertainers. But despite (or perhaps because of) the complexity of the telling, the events never grip your emotions; though Darin's life featured hits galore and a few soap opera twists, his story lacks the seductive charm of his nighclub show. Also featuring Bob Hoskins, John Goodman, Brenda Blethyn, and Greta Scacchi. --Bret Fetzer

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