Across the Universe
Throughout my life, I’ve gone through phases where I research a particular subject as much as I can. I’m not sure why I do that, but I guess something sparks my interest and for a few months, that’s the only subject I read about. It’s happened with various subjects such as the JFK assassination, the Apocrypha and a several years ago; the Beatles. Since then, I’ve been a huge fan of the Fab Four and so I was extremely cautious when I heard Julie Taymor was going to be directing a movie featuring Beatles music. To be honest, I didn’t think it could work.
However, I’m happy to say I was wrong. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is one heck of a good time and it’s more than just a collection of twenty something Beatles’ songs. There are interesting characters and a great story that just happens to be told through the music of the greatest songwriters of all time. Fans will have a good time picking out all the Beatles references, which are aplenty.
In a somewhat predictable manner (at least to Beatles fans), the film opens with Jude, played by the up and coming Jim Sturgess, singing the opening lines to “Girl”. Then we learn that he’s going to America, where he eventually meets and falls in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Max (Joe Anderson) is Lucy’s brother and serves as the token, wounded Vietnam veteran that makes everyone realize just how horrible the war is. The key to the story is actually in the time it takes place, which is the early 60’s, so the characters are about to live through the biggest transformation in American history. Of course, their relationship mirrors the different directions people’s lives took them during that time with Lucy becoming more of the traditional “hippie” and Jude being a little more reserved. Astute viewers will associate their relationship with that of John and Paul, at least in terms of their squabbles.
But as great as the characters and the story were, let’s not kid ourselves; this is about the music. Every musical lives and dies with the quality of the music, so it’s fortunate for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE that they have some of the best music ever recorded. Sturgess and Wood have good voices, as does the rest of the cast, so once you get used to hearing other people sing your favorite Beatles songs, you’ll be fine. I also have to give Taymor some credit for choosing the right songs. It would have been easy to just stick their number one hits, but she had a good mix of favorites and obscure titles. If you can make it through the movie without going and buying the soundtrack, then you’re a better man than I.
The film is an overall good time, and not just because of the Beatles. There’s a story in there and Sturgess and Wood do a great job. I had heard rumblings that Taymor and the studio had some serious differences about the direction of the film. I never heard who “won” the battle, but I’m glad the “psychedelic” sequences were kept to a minimum.