Kevin Spacey is a vainglorious ass. Every movie he's in always becomes about him--not about whatever character he's playing, but about Kevin Spacey and his vanity. Spacey dives even deeper into his cesspool of narcissism with Beyond the Sea, a postmodern, self-referential song and dance biopic/fantasy about Bobby Darin, a pop star that most people under the age of 50 only have a passing interest in. And after seeing the film--which Spacey not only stars in, but also co-wrote, directed, and produced--most will STILL only have a passing interest in Bobby Darin, which is not so good for a flick working overtime to magnify its subject's importance tenfold.
Beyond the Sea chronicles Darin's life, beginning with his meager beginnings as a chronically ill child in the Bronx. Little Bobby (William Ullrich) is told he won't live to see age 15, but when his brother-in-law buys him a piano, music seems to magically restore Little Bobby's health and pave the way for his dreams of stardom. There is, of course, loads of family drama to spice things up--like the mystery of who Bobby's real mother and father.
The melodrama continues as Little Bobby grows into Big Bobby (Spacey) and he has his first hit single, meets the love of his life (the blonde perky Sandra Dee, played by Jessica Simpson look-alike Kate Bosworth), and eventually is forced to deal with the afterlife of stardom and the changing face of popular music. Throughout the film, Big Bobby steps out of the narrative and waxes philosophic with Little Bobby, even calling attention to the cinematic fourth wall. Why, how pomo! Why, how clunky!
To its credit, Beyond the Sea has a very inventive biographical structure--but despite that creativity, the structure can't hold up Spacey's showboating performance or self-satisfied demeanor. It's no small feat that Spacey's shtick overwhelms Darin's music, the cinematography, and even some impressive art direction. Sadly, even after how desperately Beyond the Sea tries to make Darin into a greater figure than he was, audiences will likely walk away talking more about Spacey than the man he wished to canonize.