Across the Universe

October 15th, 2007 by Oread

Across the Universe

For many people, certain songs & musical artists have the ability to evoke emotions in us: fear, sadness, joy, anger, etc. Sometimes this happens through a memory that the music brings to mind, sometimes the lyrics speak to you & other times it’s simply the music itself. If you’re one of those poor souls for whom this isn’t the case, then maybe this movie isn’t for you. I dislike writing reviews, I never know what to say; however, after literally one minute of this film I knew I’d be writing a review.

The film opens with Jude (British actor Jim Sturgess) sitting on a deserted beach singing the lyrics of the Beatles song “Girl”:

Is there anybody going to listen to my story
All about the girl who came to stay?
She’s the kind of girl you want so much
It makes you sorry
Still you don’t regret a single day
Ahhh, girl…

… and goes immediately to a black & white montage of a Vietnam protest to the tune of an aggressive “Helter Skelter“.

Within sixty seconds I felt my heart wrenched & my blood boil… if anything can grip me that fast, it’s music.

Rock musicals have been done before with different degrees of success (Grease, Tommy, Evita, Rent et al.); musicals aren’t exactly everyones cup of tea. But doing a musical with re-arranged Beatles songs that already have a high degree of recognition could have been a recipe for failure (and according to some, it was). Especially when you change the mood of the songs; there’s a sad rendition of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, an exuberant partying version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” & a gospel version of “Let It Be” during a funereal sequence (not so far off the original mood of the song for that one) among others; in total 34 Beatles songs are included. You didn’t have to grow up in the heyday of The Beatles to enjoy their music. Sure, there’s probably a few out there that can’t stand them, but for the most part, everyone can find something in the Beatles catalogue they enjoy.

At its core, Across The Universe is a love story, set in the tumultuous 60s, caught up in the middle of the Civil Rights movement & the Vietnam war. I won’t spoil the movie by giving the story away, but really, it’s more about the music anyway. Many of the characters have names based on Beatles songs, of course there’s the two young lovers: Jude & Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). But then there’s also Lucy’s brother Max (the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”… I had to look that one up), Sadie, Jo-Jo, Prudence & Rita to name a few more.

There are also some interesting cameos: Joe Cocker, Bono & Eddie Izzard. Joe Cocker (alternating between bum/ hippie/ pimp) does a blues version of “Come Together”; Bono, as Dr. Robert (& his Magic Bus) does a groovy cover of “I Am the Walrus” while Eddie Izzard sings “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!“. The last two songs combine to create a psychedelic sequence reminiscent of the Yellow Submarine animated movie. And this for me, is the soul of the movie: there’s amazing choreography (a version of “I Want You” with drill sergeants & future soldiers is chilling in it’s synchronicity) & colour like an acid trip, it’s a beauty to behold… but wait, there’s more: bleeding strawberries, dancing nurses, technicolour bowling lanes… with the music, dancing, colour & surreal elements, the movie feels like a work of art, a living breathing emotive work of art.

I loved this movie; it may sound extreme, but I’d put it in my top ten favourite movies of all time (considering how many movies I’ve seen, that’s pretty high). I enjoy movies, but I often forget about them after leaving the theatre or I remember parts, but don’t feel much for them as a whole. This is one I’ll buy on DVD, I’ll watch it again, I’ll buy the Deluxe 2-Disc Soundtrack; when a movie brings me to tears (which this one did several times for a myriad of reasons) & can also make me laugh out loud, it’s a winner in my book.

In case anyone’s interested, originally the movie opened in only 23 theatres, it’s expanded this past weekend to 954 screens… in other words, it’s probably playing at a theatre near you, check it out while you can!

****½

Posted in Movie Reviews

One Response

  1. exolstice

    Fantastic review!

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