Thursday, February 28, 2008

Across the Universe - Worth the Trip


Okay. Last night I watched a movie called "Across the Universe" and my mind was completely blown. Traditionally, I can't stand musicals of any sort (except Hair and Mary Poppins) and secondly, I'm a total Beatle snob and regard other people's renditions of their songs (with the exception of Joe Cocker) to border on sacrilege. The only reason I rented the thing is that I'm a big fan of Julie Taymor. In fact, she directed one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen – Frida.

Any red blooded Beatle freak will get every reference in the film right off, which made it all the more entertaining. With characters named Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, JoJo, Dr. Robert…you get the picture. Very clever. The plot was obviously driven by historical facts and real places, but it generated a sense of surreal familiarity much the same way "Yellow Submarine" did. Taymor and her writers basically created a completely Beatle-centric universe and every detail was tended to right down to the apples. What floored me were the cameos of Joe Cocker and Bono. Score – big time. Their musical renditions of Come Together and I Am the Walrus alone were worth the risk. However, it is Taymor's absolute genius vision and sublime directing talent that puts this movie over the top. She pulled out all the tricks from her arsenal of weirdness. Think Tim Burton, only brighter and with a few less gadgets. Taymor is all about color and surreal beauty. Utilizing an entire cast of unknowns was also brilliant because the actors become the characters. I've never seen any of them anywhere else so there wasn't that urge to compare and contrast.

The only downside to the film, believe it or not, is there's too much music. I never thought there could ever be an instance of a superfluous Beatles' song, but in a few cases Taymor takes it unnecessarily too far, especially with the high-pitched weak vocals of Evan Rachel Wood. A bit more dialogue would have explained things better, especially to an audience that maybe didn't try to telephone Pepper Land or play "Revolution 9" backwards for kicks. But who am I to judge? I'm just a no-name writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Beatle. This movie has definitely helped me to reconnect with all the emotions and excitement of my past Beatle obsession. I feel like I'm home again.

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