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September 2007
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

by Wilson Morales

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

 

Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Julie Taymor
Screenwriter: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Ian La Frenais
Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel
Composer: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Dana Fuchs, Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Martin Luther McCoy, Max Carrigan, T.V. Carpio, Dana Fuchs, Bono, Jim Crocker
Rating: PG-13 (for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language)

   

Within the last few years on Broadway, we have seen a number of musicals based on the songs of famous artists such Abba (Mamma Mia), Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin'), and Billy Joel (Movin’ Out). While ‘Mamma Mia’ has proven to be a successful hit and continues to run on the Great White Way, the other two have closed, although ‘Movin’ Out’ ran for a period of time to recoup its investment. We’ve never seen anyone try to do that format on the big screen until now. When one goes to watch a Julie Taymor film, you know have to know a couple of things. She has a flair for color, costumes and settings, and she never makes a conventional story. That being said, she has attempted to make the first film based on the songs of one of the most famous artists, The Beatles. Having Columbia Pictures release the film made it possible to do so since they own the rights to the song and might as well put them to use. In ‘Across The Universe’, Taymor used close to 30 plus well-known Beatles tunes and still make it a disjointed film, although one could love it despite the ill-conceived plot.

Set in the ‘60s when the Beatles were at the height of their fame and the songs were atop the charts, we start off with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), who upset over the lose of her boyfriend in Vietnam, goes to New York to live with her Princeton educated brother Max (Joe Anderson). There, she meets Jude (Jim Sturgess), who’s from Liverpool and looking for his American father, and together they share a house with Janis Joplin singer (Dana Fuchs) and her new bandmate, Jojo, who resembles Jimmy Hendrix. While the trio tries to live under one roof, each has a different goal in life, as Max tries to avoid being drafted for Vietnam duty, and Lucy begins to work with the anti-war movement. All Jude wants to do is settle in America. Throughout the film, each actor expresses their feelings by singing songs of the era, all from the Beatles category.

While it’s good to see actors sing on the big screen, especially Evan Rachel Wood, it’s hardly a comparison when you are talking about the Beatles! Taymor employs more of her signature style of colors and customs that it actually takes away from the story and leads to confusion at times. When Max and company travels on a Partrige family bus and end up in some unknown area, you’re left wondering if you are watching some film in your dreams and you don’t know when to wake up. Much like Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, when he had Charlton Heston and Jack Lemmon in the film, the likes of Eddie Izzard and Selma Hayek add nothing to the film, although Bono and Joe Cocker make up with their weird but impressive appearances. Stealing the film away were the performances by Fuchs and McCoy who had their own storyline and sang very beautifully on screen. While the attempt to bring the Beatles back on screen through their songs is a noble attempt, it would have been more meaningful to set aside some of the ‘off-color’ scenes in favor of a constructive story, especially when dealing the aspects of war. Still, if you love the Beatles period and don’t mind listening and seeing folks cover the songs, "All You is Love" Performed by Jim Sturgess, Dana Fuchs and the cast, then go see this and be prepared for some trip.