In The Beatles’ song “Across The Universe”, the chorus relates to us: “Nothing’s gonna change my world”. In the verses, everything seems to be swaying and moving, (words are flying/endless rain/drifting through/restless wind/limitless, etc.). Julie Taymor’s second big film as a director (her first being the movie Frida), is about the world changing also. Changing around its characters, and in a big way. Depicting another Vietnam-era epic fictionalizing a storyline sadly paralleling our own generation’s current events–and possibly making this picture just a little more poignant in the process for its timing, even if it is a romanticized version using Broadway-esque Beatles’ songs to tell the story.
Each scene in the film is practically bridged together by song, which is one of a few negative things that I will note about Across The Universe. The storyline seems abrupt, and bumpy at times, fed to us song by song, as if they had glued a huge music video together to make a movie out of it, which is –I’m assuming, in making a movie using all Beatles’ songs –how I imagine they envisioned it (perhaps). A scene about The Detroit Riots, although matching the time period, seems pulled out of nowhere, and added in simply to make more use of a song, because the film’s story mostly takes place in NYC.
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen, Running With Scissors) and newcomer Jim Sturgess (UK TV sitcom and series mostly) play “Lucy” and “Jude”; two star-crossed kids who fall in love. Jim, fresh off the boat from Ireland, and Lucy (whose boyfriend *spoiler alert* gets killed earlier on in the film during a tour of duty in Vietnam), who plays the pat younger doe-eyed sister of big brother “Max”–incidentally new best-friend to Jude, are stuck between the politics of war, and the youthfulness of being in love in a turbulent time (sounds cheesy, right?). Like Jude and Lucy, most characters in the film do have a Beatles-related name: Sadie (sexy modern cougar/singer/landlady), JoJo (sexy guitarist/Jimi Hendrix-type character), Prudence (yes, they sing “Dear Prudence” to Prudence), Dr. Robert (played oddly by Bono; weirdest quote award ‘masturbating crocodile tears’ or something of the sort) and UK comedian Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite – which is actually one of the more interesting parts of the film beside the major scene where Lucy’s brother Max is inducted into the army to the tune of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.
Laid somewhere between Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Romeo + Juliet, this movie isn’t for kids, although after seeing someone take a 1-year old into Rob Zombie’s incredibly embarrassing remake of Halloween nothing would surprise me. It’s about love, and about war, some of the scenes are really devastating and of course really dramatized, and Evan Rachel Wood showed some serious arty breast, which I was not expecting. Anyway, it is a movie that should be seen on the big screen, simply because of the way it was filmed, mixing animation with action – it shows a lot of definition, originality, artistry, and color, in the story and in the visualization. I’m not saying that it was as fantastic as Moulin Rouge or cool like the gun scene at the gas station in that version of Romeo + Juliet (that come to think of it, probably started this whole thing). But, it is interesting nonetheless.
Obviously, no one can do The Beatles’ songs better than The Beatles themselves, but when you get past that fact, you might actually find the movie interesting–or you might just shudder to think.
On a side note: NYC’s The Secret Machines (originally based out of Dallas TX – no one Pince Nez me!) play on the soundtrack and in the film, which incidentally is like a page out of High School Musical, with all of the cast singing the songs from the movie. The Secret Machines also back Bono on the song “I Am the Walrus”–possibly the most distasteful and annoying scene in the entire film.
So, who’s going? Beatles karaoke anyone?