Glorious visuals. I remember seeing the trailer for Across the Universe just shortly after the last major resurgence of the Beatles’ popularity. (Ever notice their relevance comes in cycles? I guarantee the next one will come in 2012 and if you’re a diehard Beatle fan that year is a bone of contention to you.) I was dead set to watch it. Unfortunately, its limited release would see to me waiting for the DVD.
Musicals have been a long dead art form, but with the success of hits like Moulin Rouge, Rent, Chicago, and Hairspray it’s easy to see why the genre has resurfaced like a cask of Napoleonic wine. But, Singin’ in the Rain this is not. Across the Universe reached into over thirty tracks from the Beatles’ catalogue to bring you yet another retrospective from our nation’s most turbulent era, the sixties. (Odd, the Beatles weren’t American, yet they helped to define America.)
The story focuses on Jude, (Jim Sturgess, 21, The Other Boleyn Girl) a Brit who comes to America to find his long lost father (a relationship that gets book shelved after two minutes.) He meets an Ivey-leaguer named Max (Joe Anderson, The Ruins, The Crazies) (I was waiting for him to snap and kill people with hammers. It never happened.) Max introduces Jude to his sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, Running with Scissors, S1m0ne) and the turmoil begins. The two fall in love and their relationship serves as an analogy for the splintering nation around them. After Max is drafted Lucy joins the radicals, but Jude remains a passive romantic. He partakes in few of the tempting vices, but never is fully sucked in either way. We see America’s sixties from an outsider’s perspective. All of the important turn of events are noted, but ultimately become a wall of sound compared to Jude’s internal bedlam. The chasm between Lucy and Jude is cemented by one realization. She calls him out for not making an effort because he’ll never be drafted, and neither will she.
The afore mentioned idea was alright, even the short stories braided in to fill the movie were OK, the exception of course came with Prudence(T.V. Carpio, Sucker Free TV.) There is no point in getting into the finer details of the plot, because it seems the writer didn’t care too much about it. The only B plot worth mentioning is Prudence, because her character serves as a good parallel for the execution of the whole movie. She was dropped on the screen mid way through the beginning and showed no connection to the main characters at all. The exception came with a few exchanges they shared on screen. I believe her point was to be the token lesbian, but I’m not sure that’s 100% true. (When we first meet her she seems to be pining over a cheerleader, then later Sadie, but she mentions she slept with both Jude and Max.) The point is I don’t get her point. I don’t understand the objective behind a lot of inserted details that went into this movie.
The first third of the movie was interesting, if not hurried, and the songs helped you ease through the plot. Unfortunately, the movie hit a point where the songs became the plot and the acting became the nuisance. As much as I love Eddie Izzard and Bono, I really didn’t think their scenes were necessary. In fact, I dare say their scenes bogged down the plot.
As most of you know, I am a stickler for beautiful images, and this movie was packed with some stunning shots. There were some incidents that made me cringe, however, like the all too direct metaphor of drafted solders lugging the statue of liberty while singing “she’s so heavy.” How about some tact guys? By the end of the movie that visuals are dried up and we are left with would be Beatles singing on a roof top. This shouldn’t be horrible, but covers that took chances were too artsy to enjoy. The ones that didn’t were mediocre. The noted exception was the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” That is a version that can be enjoyed out of context. One other that stands apart from the rest was “Come Together,” a version that brought the music back to its basic rock roots. The man who sang it wasn’t named or part of the central or extensional cast.
I should mention that cast was wonderful. The acting was bril and I greatly enjoyed the “A Little Help from my Friends” scene. I also want to give a special shout out for the James Bond-esque “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and robotic look to the soldiers in “I Want You (She’s so Heavy).”
All and all if you love the Beatles and/or stunning visuals, but don’t care too much about plot, you should see this movie. If you want something deeply intellectual or at least give you a sense of satisfaction when you’re done, move on.
What is the most inspiring song you've ever heard?
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