A review of “Across the Universe” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for profanity and some nudity

Run Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes

 

 

Julie Taymor’s wildly ambitious ode to the Fab Four is a flawed but occasionally fabulous change of pace.

And perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. For starters it’s a musical; the brand of belt-it-out-in-public musical. Then there are the lyrics; based on thirty-three beloved Beatle’s classics that pulsate through the narrative offering unique and complex perspective.

The song and dance extravaganza supports a simple romance between star-crossed lovers Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Britain transplant Jude (Jim Sturgess). Jude and Lucy fall in love to a setting of turning on, tuning in and dropping out at a Greenwich Village loft owned by nightclub hopeful Prudence (songstress extraordinaire T.V. Carpio). One senses a theme.

The idealistic Lucy falls in with a group of zealous anti-war activists while peacenik Jude pays the rent by making paint and canvas his expression of choice.

Once into its rhythm “Universe” is a pleasantly wacky pastiche of historical highs and lows – sit-ins, be-ins, the Vietnam War and the onset of a vibrant hippie culture. Turbulent years of protest and exploration are reflected in Taymor’s vivid, slapdash style; the generation of change is both visionary and relevant.

Taymor is also freakishly montage-happy, overselling the technique with madcap music to match the mood. Best of show: “Dear Prudence”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Helter Skelter”, all of which highlight the unique talents of its relative unknowns. Timing between musical numbers is uncomfortably inconsistent but there’s joy in song.

Most of the cast can effectively carry a tune; Woods’ throaty soprano is particularly endearing. Surprise cameos appear in the most unlikely places, rendering the whole a great big jack-in-the-box of a movie surprise.