Across the Universe (2007)

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Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther, T.V. Carpio, Bono, Eddie Izzard, Salma Hayek, James Urbaniak
Written by: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, based on a story by Julie Taymor, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
Directed by: Julie Taymor
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language
Running Time: 133
Date: 09/09/2007

Nowhere Men

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Julie Taymor’s third film is a full-blown psychedelic musical based around a selection of well-placed Beatles songs. A handful of characters — mainly creative types — wind up living in the same New York apartment and soar through the turbulent sixties, making music, joining protests and getting drafted. Some of the musical numbers, sung mainly by the actors, work beautifully while others sink. The same goes for the “guest singers.” Bono’s exuberant “I Am the Walrus” is something to see, but Eddie Izzard’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” seems almost embarrassed. Taymor goes to town on each number, adding visual zing ranging from animation to swirling colors and transcendental graphics, but when it comes to the in-between scenes, her direction falls back to a routine, rudimentary style. (It makes a far better trailer than a movie.) And, unfortunately, the writing is far too closed-in and stagebound; it’s like a more colorful version of Rent (2005), with its fixed number of easily defined characters. It also reminded me by turns of Alan Parker’s Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) and Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991), each of which stuck more consistently to lunacy. Jim Sturgess stars as Jude, a young Liverpudlian who comes to America to find his birth father, but falls in with an Ivy League dropout, Max (Joe Anderson — who looks quite a bit like Kurt Cobain) and his beautiful sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Sadie (Dana Fuchs) is a Janis Joplin-like singer and JoJo (Martin Luther) is a Jimi Hendrix-like guitarist. T.V. Carpio plays Prudence, who must be coaxed out of a closet in one sequence. (“Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?”) Joe Cocker — who once covered “With a Little Help from My Friends” — appears and sings “Come Together.” Salma Hayek, from Taymor’s previous film Frida (2002), plays a gaggle of identical nurses in one nightmarish sequence. And James Urbaniak plays a record company man. At the very least it’s a more intelligent attempt than the infamous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978).

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