Movie Review for Across the Universe (2007)

Click Poster to Purchase

Review #539 of 365
Movie Review of Across the Universe (2007) [PG-13] 131 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 5 October 2007
Time: 11:45 am
DVD Release Date: 5 February 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: Download now from Joe Anderson - Across the Universe (Music from the Motion Picture) [Deluxe Edition] - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Julie Taymor (Frida)
Screenplay by : Dick Clement (Flushed Away) • Ian La Frenais (Flushed Away) with story by Julie Taymor, Dick Clement, and Ian La Frenais

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Evan Rachel Wood (Running with Scissors) • Jim Sturgess (Mouth to Mouth) • Joe Anderson (Becoming Jane) • Dana Fuchs (debut) • Martin Luther (debut) • T.V. Carpio (She Hate Me)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Click to read the spoiler points for Across the Universe
See Premiere and Cast Photos
To say you've never seen anything like this might sound a bit like hyperbole, but really, you've never seen anything like this. Julie Taymor, best know to millions who bore witness to her incredible conceptualization of Disney's® The Lion King for the Broadway stage, got the idea to re-examine the 1960s through the lyrics of the decade's most influential musical group, the Beatles. She narrowed their archive down to just 33 songs from which emerged a new story focusing on the characters of Jude (of "Hey Jude") and Lucy (of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds")—transcontinental soul mates who discover each other when Jude leaves Liverpool to track his American G.I. father now working at Princeton who abandoned his mother before his birth and ends up crashing into Lucy's older brother Max on the campus. They meet, officially, on Thanksgiving, but Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) is devoted to the boyfriend she's just seen march off to serve his country in the Vietnam War. When he's killed just before a leave, Lucy abandons all concerns for her provincial life and decides to join the new college drop out, Max (Joe Anderson) and Jude (Jim Sturgess) at their apartment in NYC.

"Across the Universe is a film experience that needs to be seen over and over again…"
Better described as a rooming house without the house, the multi-roomed apartment houses Sadie (Dana Fuchs), her bandmate JoJo (Martin Luther), and Prudence (T.V. Carpio)—a former cheerleader from Dayton, Ohio who has hitch-hiked to NYC hoping to find herself. These characters form the nucleus of the cast of what seems like 1000s of dancers, singers, puppeteers, and everywhere cops. The story, through the lyrics, explores the climate of the 1960s from the civil rights riots to the draft dodging, to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the war demonstrations. Nearly no aspect of the positives and negatives of the times goes unexplored. Conflict, of course, is essential to any good story, and there are layers and layers of it here. The USA is at war, but not just abroad, with itself. From the anti-war protestors to the equal rights movement, the 1960s were as tumultuous a time as the nation had seen since the Civil War. What would eventually emerge from all the chaos?

Julie Taymor took on quite an incredible concept here to make a musical that would transform the some of the Beatles's most famous songs into the lyrical narrative of a film is something that's never really been done like this before. It would have been one thing to do like CATS and just have a theme of cats throughout, but no contiguous story, but that's not what happens here. What happens here is a set of love stories all concentrating on the core characters as they learn to love each other for all their good and bad qualities. The viable question to ask in the end is, "Did it work?". For the most part it did. It's sad to say, but the biggest weakness of the film is probably the overly romantic stance it eventually takes. To really work, someone important would have had to die. And that's also probably the most ironic disappointment of the film because, usually, you don't want to see your favorite characters die. However, so many people died in the 1960s fighting for their beliefs or the beliefs of the government or because they were drafted to fight in a war they could not even comprehend and would end up changing so many of them, the ones that came home, forever. While the horror of the war is addressed and Max gets drafted nearly the moment he drops out of Princeton, the reality of the horror of the war that Lucy ends up committing herself to ending nearly costing her life and her soul mate, is masked by the cotton candy ending. It's nice when a story ends this way, but it very arguably missed this important part of the history. Sure, no one wants to go back and reflect on all the people killed, wounded, paralyzed, or traumatized; but that, unfortunately, is the reality of the 1960s. Also, unfortunately, it did weaken the impact and the authenticity of the film's story. Nonetheless, the cinematic and lyrically important film produced is absolutely stunning, mesmerizing, and fantastically entertaining. With the principal cast members all singing for themselves using live vocals during filming as much as possible and recording on equipment that was historically accurate, the film sounds as brilliantly as it looks. Who knew that Evan Rachel Wood could sing? As for Jim Sturgess, he'd best be prepared, talk to Orlando Bloom, etc., because the guys got it all: looks, smile, charm, Beatle's hair cut, and, of course, that accent. It seems to be impossible for USAers to pronounce 'girl' the way the rad English dudes say it, and how ever they manage it, it's the magic killer word that just drives 'guh-ulls' crazy. Paired with his sidekick, fellow Brit playing American Max, Joe Anderson's absolutely perfect. Martin Luther and Dana Fuchs are a marvelous pair whose vocals and earthy soul add additional credibility to this project. T.V. Carpio, a neophyte to both acting and singing, blends out this chorus with style and diversity. If you've not visited the site (link above) it's highly warranted just to listen to the tracks and read all about Ms Taymor's vision. Of course, there will be a lot of talk about the cameos by Bono (as the Walrus), Salma Hayek as all five of the singing nurses, and Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite. They are wonderful tributes to the electric and psychedelic effects of the disenchanted and lost of the 1960s.

Across the Universe is a film experience that needs to be seen over and over again to catch everything, to become absorbed in the experience, and to fully comprehend the nuances of incredible amount of creativity it took to actually make this vision become a reality. It's difficult to imagine anyone but Julie Taymor making this work. Her artistic talents both in envisioning the results but also in assembling the rest of the talents necessary to make this happen represent abilities absent in even some of the finest filmmakers today.

"…a new chapter in the history of the musical, still the USA's greatest contribution to theatrical performance, and what it can be."
She is a true national artistic treasure. Her screenwriters, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais additionally demonstrated tremendous talent in solving the jigsaw puzzle that was assembling all the Beatles's song lyrics into an order that flowed generating the story they envisioned. They had to write bridge dialogue to connect the pieces together and which stayed true to the characters that arose from the lyrics themselves. The results are amazing characters born in the rich history of some of the world's most famous love songs and political messages that you can now see, hear, and fall in love with all over again. Without a doubt, Across the Universe has written a new chapter in the history of the musical, still the USA's greatest contribution to theatrical performance, and what it can be.

While I don't do this often, I'm going to also say which part was my personal absolute favorite part of the film. It's when Jim Sturgess as Jude sings Strawberry Fields. Wow, when the DVD comes out, this part is going to be put on infi-loop on my computer. It's one of the most emotionally provocative sequences I've ever seen in a film. It's part still-life, part performance art, part painting, part musical, and part psychedelic enchantment. Unreal!

Send This Review To a Friend

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Across the Universe (2007)
Cast Members
Evan Rachel WoodJim SturgessJoe Anderson
Dana FuchsMartin LutherT.V. Carpio
Julie Taymor
Dick ClementIan La Frenais
CD Soundtrack
Deluxe CD
Related CD

Review-lite Across the Universe (2007) [max of 150 words]
Worthy of being declared a National Treasure, director Julie Taymor transforms 33 Beatles song into a incredible new musical motion picture experience truly unlike anything you've ever seen. Fan of the Beatles or not, never before have the lyrics of the songs of one group been used in this way to assemble a cinematic musical exploration of a decade in American history. Visually stunning, the film captures all of human emotions transcending its medium and evolving in a revolutionary way into something powerfully uplifting. While it does fail to truly envelope the horror of the Vietnam war and the long-term damage it to the American psyche, in every other way the film scores nearly perfectly and stands to make bona fide stars out of the entire cast especially Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, and Jim Sturgess.

Send This Review To a Friend

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait for it to end. Disjointed and "broadwayesk" versions of classic Beatles songs were horrid. A definite-wait for the DVD-if anything.