Across the Universe
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Cynthia Loebe, Martin Luther, Salma Hayek, Eddie Izzard, Bono, TV Carpio, Karl Hammerle, Heather Janneck
Director: Julie Taymor
NYU Tisch '07
"...And hey, I met you. You are not cool." -Almost Famous
Across the Universe
Review By: Michael Dance
Across the Universe
You already know whether you love or hate this movie. If the idea of a 1960s-set musical with an original story featuring young actors belting out all Beatles music strikes you as a sacrilegious or just plain horrible idea, you're going to hate Across the Universe. The rest of us will likely experience something exhilarating.
Jim Sturgess, who was unknown to me before I saw him in this, stars as Jude, a British dock worker who travels to America to find the father he never knew. He gets sidetracked when he meets a brash Princeton student named Max (Joe Anderson) and his younger sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and soon enough the three of them are living in a New York City apartment. There they befriend the co-inhabitants like JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy), a guitar player who left Detroit after the race riots, and Sadie (Dana Fuchs), who sings every night at club in Greenwich Village.
Okay, so with names like Jude, Lucy, JoJo, and Sadie, let it not be said that the movie isn't gimmicky. But chances are, you'll soon find yourself chuckling with recognition at the constant Beatles allusions rather than rolling your eyes. It's hard not to like a movie that knowingly tosses in dialogue like "I told myself, when I'm sixty-four, I'll be long gone from this place,"Â and I'm sure there were plenty more references that I didn't catch.
The story itself is rather formulaic, in the style of a stage musical "” the happy group of friends is eventually driven apart by the troubles of the times before reuniting in a life-affirming ending "” and it hits all the expected '60s beats: Max, after dropping out of Princeton, is drafted to fight in Vietnam, while Jude and Lucy are driven apart by Lucy's involvement in an increasingly radical protest movement. But while you may be expecting each plot point five minutes before it happens, the musical sequences "” probably a bit more than half of the film "” are unconventional, exciting, and terrifically choreographed.
I've been told many of the numbers pay homage to the original '60s Beatles musicals like A Hard Day's Night; I haven't seen any of those, although that makes me want to. I especially liked JoJo's arrival in New York, set to a homeless man singing "Come Together,"Â with a crowded street of pedestrians suddenly moving in unison around them. And Max's physical at the draft office, where he imagines the officers and an Uncle Sam poster singing "I Want You."Â And "Hey Jude,"Â which actually figures out a creative reason for all the "Jude Jude-a-Jude-a-Jude-a!!"Â shouting at the end of the song. The end of the movie actually feels a little muted, in comparison to the energy of
The bottom line is that these are extremely talented young singers singing the best rock songs ever written, and the choreography and visual effects that accompany each song are eye candy in the best sense of the phrase. This is the kind of movie that has the potential to impress both a 50-year-old baby boomer and his 14-year-old High School Musical-obsessed daughter. If you get into the spirit of it, you'll want to watch it over and over again.
The first disc of this "2-Disc Deluxe Edition"Â features a commentary by director Julie Taymor (who directed, among other things, The Lion King on Broadway) and composer/arranger Elliot Goldenthal, as well as a few alternate takes of Eddie Izzard's appropriately out-there performance of "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite."Â
The second disk, however, is the real special-feature oasis, with a number of documentaries "” one making-of, one that showcases the cast of unknowns, another featuring all the music, etc. Best of all, it features extended cuts of eight different songs from the film.
All the features are well-done, although unless I missed something in the commentary, the behind-the-scenes drama that happened right before the movie came out is never discussed. Supposedly, the studio was unhappy with the length of Taymor's cut of the film and went ahead and cut it themselves, which resulted in a big fight between the two sides. Luckily a compromise was reached (official running time: 133 min.), because it would be a shame if something this successful was killed by squabbling.
Movie Grade: A-
DVD Grade: B+
Overall Grade: A-