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Across The Universe (2007)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres:
Musical, Musical Romance, Period Film
Director:
Julie Taymor Julie Taymor
Starring:
Evan Rachel Wood Evan Rachel Wood
Jim Sturgess Jim Sturgess
Joe Anderson Joe Anderson
Dana Fuchs Dana Fuchs
Martin Luther Martin Luther

7.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: October 14, 2007
Call me crazy, but Julie Taymor might be the greatest female director on the planet. Strike that. Julie Taymor is the greatest female director on the planet. She also happens to be one of the greatest directors working today, male, female or other. Her directorial debut, "Titus", is one of my favorite films of all-time, and "Frida" was, itself, a masterpiece. She got her start on Broadway and hit it big with Disney's "The Lion King", which has become one of the most popular Broadway musicals in history. She then branched out to the world of cinema, but has always kept the same visual flair and keen eye for detail that made her stage shows so memorable. "Across the Universe" is her first movie musical, and not only does it showcase her ability to create heartfelt human connections amidst traditional movie musical razzle dazzle, but also her incredible ability to rival directors like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze with her visual spectacle. "Across the Universe" has been going through the ringer, either receiving amazing reviews or terrible reviews - no middle ground. Most complaints are that it's just one extended music video. That's true. It is. Nevertheless, "Across the Universe" is the most visually stunning and creative picture of the year. It tackles the greatest band in the history of music, The Beatles, and it does so beautifully and with total respect. This is one of the best films of the year, and one of the best movie musicals ever put to film.

The characters in "Across the Universe" represent various characters from the wonderful world of the band that named them. Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a working class lad from Liverpool who decides to take a trip to the States to find his biological father, who abandoned his mother when he was still growing in her belly. Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a privileged youth with traditional parents and a somewhat rebellious brother, Max (Joe Anderson). Jude and Max meet at Princeton and become fast friends and Jude goes home with Max for Thanksgiving, where he first meets Lucy. Jude and Max then move to New York City and live in a Greenwich Village loft with several other people, including the Janis Joplin-esque Sadie (Dana Fuchs), the Jimi Hendrix-esque JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy) and the disappearing/re-appearing Prudence (T.V. Carpio). They all form a friendship that carries throughout the film. The film follows the group of ragtags as Jude and Lucy fall further and further in love; as Uncle Sam recruits Max to fight in Vietnam; and as Sadie and JoJo learn that success takes its toll on any relationship. All of this takes while the characters sing an assortment of songs from The Beatles, ranging from a Gospel rendition of "Let It Be" to a fun and funky take on "With A Little Help From My Friends". We also get cameos from individuals like Bono as Dr. Robert, who graces us with "I Am the Walrus"; Joe Cocker as a bum, a pimp and a hippie in a very amazing version of "Come Together"; Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite in the song of the same name; and the lovely Salma Hayek as multiple nurses in "Happiness Is A Warm Gun".

All of that said - yes, this film is, basically, one extended music video. However, it's a music video that makes us care about its characters and presents us with some visually stunning sequences that left many people in our audience dazed, confused and absolutely in awe. One of the best scenes comes when Max is recruited to the Army, and we see an unusual take on the process, with stiff jawed soldiers undressing him and giving him his physical examinations. Another scene of great beauty involves Jude and "Strawberry Fields Forever", with those gorgeous reds that splash all over the screen. The Joe Cocker sequence is quite nice also, but it's Bono and Eddie Izzard who make the one-two punch of the film. Eddie Izzard is especially goofy and off the wall as Mr. Kite and that sequence shows Taymor's preference from that kind of Michel Gondry-esque animation. But, even the basic musical numbers are impressive. The film opens with a wide eyed Jim Sturgess staring directly into the camera, singing and he has us every second after that. If there was any musical sequence that felt a little awkward to me, it was the "Revolution" sequence, primarily because the background actors just seemed to stand around and not really do anything. I also didn't necessarily care for the arrangement they chose for that particular song. My favorite song, "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", was given fine treatment thanks to Joe Anderson and several Salma Hayeks, and it looked like it might have been one of the more complicated scenes in the film.

As for the performances, the word is out and the word is good. Jim Sturgess really makes the movie for me, and not just because he is absolutely stunning to look at. He has an innocence and a charm that serves the character of Jude well, and it makes us root for him and care for him. Joe Anderson is also a nice find as Max, who provides us with some early comic relief, but then gets to show a little more range when Vietnam finds him a changed person. Both Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy carry their roles well, and Bono, Eddie Izzard and Joe Cocker made everyone in the audience smile when they popped up on screen. If there was one disappointing performance in the film, it was probably Evan Rachel Wood. I guess I am just not a huge fan of her to begin with, but I found her to be the least likable of the characters and I certainly wasn't able to invest much, if any, emotion into her character. But, she still did a serviceable job with the role and it wasn't close to making this film anything less than a visual masterpiece. As for the vocals, they were all strong, with the most impressive coming from Jim Sturgess and Dana Fuchs. It was nice to get to watch a movie musical that actually featured performances with this kind of depth and heart. It reminded me of what made movie musicals so popular for so many years, and why they should be still. With this film and "Hairspray", it seems like that genre might finally be getting back on track.

The best way to sum this film up would be to say - "Across the Universe" is an 'experience'. It is a visual feast and a musical delight. Arrangements are all over the place. Slow songs are sped up. Fast songs are slowed down. Lyrics are turned to dialogue and dialogue are turned into lyrics. The wonderful world of The Beatles comes to life in new and exciting ways. Director Julie Taymor has created one of the most beautiful films of the year, or any year. She has crafted a film that places her in the upper echelon of directors working today, and she has separated herself from the rest of the pack by leaps and bounds with her creativity and her fearlessness to do anything it takes to get the shot she wants and the performance she wants. "Across the Universe" could have easily been a disaster. It could have flopped and flunked and failed beyond all measure. Instead, it made itself special. It made itself memorable. Since this film will likely be overlooked come awards season, I do think it deserves technical consideration, especially for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up and Best Sound. "Across the Universe" is currently in semi-wide release, so I suggest you check it out as soon as you can. I love this movie, ya, ya, ya.

10/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 10/14/2007, 07:23 PM
I've been dying to see this for some time now. Hopefully, work permitting, I'll make a little stop this week some time.
Edd #2: Edd - added 10/15/2007, 05:19 PM
Whenever this film gets a release near where I live, I'm definately going to go see it. Mainly for the Beatles music, hopefully everything else gels together too.
Chad #3: Chad - added 10/15/2007, 07:10 PM
Edd's Profile
My Ratings - 1,484 Ratings Total
1. Across The Universe - Perfect

I love when you make it blatantly obvious that you rate movies that you haven't even seen yet.
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 10/15/2007, 07:41 PM
Damn, you just been p-p-p-pwnded.
Griffinheart #5: Griffinheart - added 10/16/2007, 01:16 AM
Maybe he thinks he's rating the review or the reviewer? Either way, his rating of Daredevil was dead on.
bluemeanie #6: bluemeanie - added 10/16/2007, 09:51 AM
Please don't even tarnish the page of "Across the Universe" by mentioning that piece of shit Ben Affleck film. I hardly doubt he's probably even seen "Daredevil" now. Hell, I am starting to have seconds thoughts about whether or not Edd is a real person at all.
Tristan #7: Tristan - added 10/16/2007, 04:21 PM
Haha, you don't know the half of it. Get to see it this weekend. *squeals*
Ashlee #8: Ashlee - added 03/14/2008, 04:39 PM
people might think it's weird at times, because it is, but it's different- amazing soundtrack, also.
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