Film: Across the Universe

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Across the Universe

Director: Julie Taymor
Distributor: Sony Pictures

Across the Universe, from director Julie Taymor, is a revolutionary rock musical that re-imagines America in the turbulent late-1960s, a time when battle lines were being drawn at home and abroad. When young dockworker Jude (Jim Sturgess) leaves Liverpool to find his estranged father in America, he is swept up by the waves of change that are re-shaping the nation. Jude falls in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a rich but sheltered American girl who joins the growing anti-war movement in New York’s Greenwich Village. As the body count in Vietnam rises, political tensions at home spiral out of control and the star-crossed lovers find themselves in a psychedelic world gone mad. With a cameo by Bono, Across the Universe is “the kind of movie you watch again, like listening to a favorite album.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)


Set in America during the Vietnam War, Across the Universe is a powerful love story set against a backdrop of political and social unrest: it’s a story of soul-searching, self-doubt, and individual powerlessness cleverly conveyed through a multitude of Beatles songs. Like young adults all across America during the 1960’s, Jude (Jim Sturgess), Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), Max (Joe Anderson), Sadie (Dana Fuchs), Prudence (T.V. Carpio), and JoJo (Martin Luther) are in turmoil over the war; questioning their individual roles in the war effort and struggling to find a way to hold true to their beliefs while making a difference in the world. While love proves a powerful uniting force, its limitations become clear as relationships are strained and broken over individual perceptions of responsibility to cause and country. A fairly bizarre juxtaposition of extremely stylized, almost hallucinogenic scenes of swirling colors and reflections, highly choreographed dance segments, seemingly commonplace character interaction, and emotionally packed close-up footage of characters lost in contemplative song, this film imparts a good sense of the confusion and passion of the time and is at once powerful, invigorating, and disturbing. The film runs a bit long at 2-hours 11-minutes and several segments drag noticeably thanks to some incredibly slow song tempos. Warning: this production may change how you think about a favorite Beatles song forever. —Tami Horiuchi

Something a little different to the norm, Across The Universe is, in its simplest form, a collection of Beatles songs that have been strung together into a musical. But what a musical, and ultimately, what a fascinating film too.

Across The Universe follows Jude, played by Jim Sturgess, who travels from Britain to America in the 1960s, and eventually meets Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). The film then picks up the story of their romance, with the likes of Vietnam war protests sitting in the background, along with a strong-yet-unknown supporting cast who more than hold their own.

Across The Universe progresses its narrative through a mix of Beatles numbers, and it’s a method that sometimes works exceptionally well, and at other times feels a little bit shoehorned. Nonetheless, more of it succeeds than fails, and there’s no denying the quality of the musical work, even though it’s not the Fab Four whose vocal talents are used.

Sometimes a bit uneven, Across The Universe is nonetheless a brave and bold screen musical, with a striking visual style. Director Julie Taymor—who previously directed the musical of The Lion King on Broadway—has fashioned a gleefully unusual movie, that’s a bit risky, sometimes a bit stretched, but very, very watchable. One of the most interesting little gems of 2007.—Jon Foster

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