The music of the Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.
Year 1, Day 262
BEFORE: Wrapping up my leftover chain, which is now my second longest chain (behind Oscar month, just ahead of the documentary chain) in the marathon, Across the Universe has the honors for today’s film. Scheduled for the romance chain in February, Across the Universe is the second leftover musical (Moulin Rouge! being the first) with Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood taking the two leads in this film based off of music by The Beatles. I’ve had some good luck with musicals lately and with the source material being The Beatles, I’m hopeful for greatness.
AFTER: As much as I like listening to The Beatles’ music, watching their music put to visuals and slapped on to a horribly incoherent story is nowhere near as fun. When you’re already lost and confused as to what is happening five minutes in, and almost nothing is explained later, it’s painfully hard to watch Across the Universe.
Sole credit for this film has to go to the great music. Coming from The Beatles’ archive, you know it’s going to be good. Lots of classic songs make it into the film like “Let It Be”, “Come Together”, and “I Am the Walrus”, in addition to many more for a total of 33 tracks. Other than that though, there really isn’t much to like about the film. A few things I can understand what director Julie Taymor was trying to accomplish, and in some ways does. Many Beatles songs were written and are about drug use and trippy/psychedelic visuals are a large part of this film. Countless musical numbers with accompanying choreography are just plain bizarre. Large hands waving around, people standing on water, and crazy changing colors in a club. Viewing it in the context of this film with all the drug use it makes sense. But it’s the combination with the story that makes it ineffective. Since the story is incomprehensible, these crazy visuals just stick out as even weirder. Vague, ambiguous, and hard-to-follow films are ok. Many times mystery and uncertainty help a film and it’s story. But you need something; something to anchor all the crazy things so you can wrap your head around what’s happening. And Across the Universe doesn’t have that anchor. It rambles on, introducing throwaway plot points and characters (Jude’s dad stands out - he does come back at the end but his whole character is very under developed).
I did learn something from Across the Universe and it was great to hear old, and new (for me), Beatles songs. But there I cannot with good conscious recommend putting this film on your watch list. There is just too much nonsensical story and character development and the musical aspect, while fitting for the source material, doesn’t help make the film entertaining and in many ways emphasizes the downsides of the film.
RATING: 2 out of 5