ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Jude (Jim Sturgess) leaves his dockland job in Liverpool for America, looking for his natural father (Robert Clohessy) he has never met. On the way, he meets and falls in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and with a group of friends and musicians, is swept up in the emerging anti-Vietnam war movement. Deep in the counterculture movement, he meets Dr Robert (Bono) and Mr Kite (Eddie Izzard), the fabulous singer Sadie (Dana Fuchs), her guitarist (Martin Luther McCoy) and Lucy's brother Max (Joe Anderson). But he returns to Liverpool with a broken heart, until encouraged to go back and seek Lucy out. In the middle of a street riot, with Sadie delivering a rooftop performance, Jude reconnects with Lucy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a revolution all right, taking The Beatles music and weaving it all into some sort of coherent flow that documents the era and the mood and the love and the hate and the whole damn thing of the 60s. Julie Taymor's adventure in Beatle-land is a huge success, ripping the songs that defined a generation and its (dashed) hopes for peace in a microcosm of a love story. What a brilliant idea. How brilliantly executed.
The Beatles music makes more sense in this jam of their work than ever before. It gains a holistic relevance and a perfectly attuned resonance with its times and its aspirations. But enough with the analysis, lie back and enjoy the visual magic, the musical magic and the audacity of its cinematic presentation. It doesn't hurt that Jim Sturgess reminds us vocally of Paul McCartney, though this is more suggestive than actual. More importantly, he and the rest of the cast are beautifully directed to deliver the songs within the context of the film, giving added pathos, added layers and deeper meaning to them all.
The construct of using existing music to create a musical is fraught with danger: how can you avoid the impression that you have manipulated your story to fit the music? You can't, but you can invest it with sincerity of intent, and sheer creative flair.
The cast is superb on every level, and the film's ability to weave between whimsical musical and powerful drama is remarkable. It's entertaining, painful and genuine - a perfect appreciation of The Beatles amazing music, imported into a dramatic structure.
Review by Louise Keller:
Music is the only thing that makes sense now, says Martin Luther McCoy's guitarist Jo-Jo, and with an explosion of creativity comes Julie Taymor's musical tour de force, Across The Universe. To simply call it a musical or a tribute to the Beatles does the film an injustice, but while it defies classification, Taymor's vision is one in which the lyrics of 33 of the Fab Four's best-loved songs tell a story. The story about love, war, revolution and peace reflects the mood of the 60s and the unexpected interpretations of those lyrics we have heard a million times are both stimulating and moving.
With characters whose names are synonymous with key Beatles tunes, we can only wait patiently to hear the relevant songs. Taymor is also a tease: we don't get to hear Maxwell's silver Hammer, but we do see Max (Joe Anderson) with a hammer in hand. With good singing voices, the cast members are hand-picked, and each one is a jewel. In a stunning debut, Jim Sturgess, representing the Liverpudlian voice of the Beatles, is Jude; the object of his affection is the appealing Rachel Evan Wood as Lucy, the girl with perfect teeth and a life of privilege. Dana Fuchs is a knockout as Sadie, the belting singer with a mane of long curls whose on/off relationship with Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy is great) is passion personified. Joe Cocker is a blast as the mad hippie, plus there's Bono, Eddie Izzard and Salma Hayek as a singing nurse.
Hold Me Tight, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, All My Lovin', With a Little Help From My Friends - the songs are presented and choreographed with fresh arrangements and harmonies. But more impressively, they are given an emotional context that goes far beyond the superficial. I like the psychedelic sequence with Sargeant Pepper tunes and the surreal circus with bands and flying animals, but the most haunting image comes with Strawberry Fields Forever: who would have thought of pierced, juicy, sexy fruit oozing onto a white page before morphing into a battle field of Vietnam's bloody carnage. Taymor saves the best till last, with Jude, All You Need is Love and the unforgettable psychedelic underwater closing credit sequence for Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. The choreography is inventive, the editing superb and the production design inspired. This is a stunning and ultra sensual experience - it's a bit like tripping through the life and loves of a whole generation. And what a trip!
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ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (M)
CAST: Rachel Evan Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther, T.V. Carpio, Spencer Liff
PRODUCER: Matthew Gross, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd
DIRECTOR: Julie Taymor
SCRIPT: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bruno Delbonnel
EDITOR: Françoise Bonnot
MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg
RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 1, 2007
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.