And so, not wanting to spin Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for the cajillionth time this week, I did the next logical thing and popped in a copy of Julie Taymor's 2007 Beatles musical Across The Universe.
Taymor is a veteran of the stage and that shines through in all her films. She's the woman responsible for directing the mega-hit stage production of The Lion King as well as the mega-disaster Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
So, for better or worse, the woman has vision. And, at 60 years young, she's kind of still a monster cougar, don't you think?
Back on track...
Unfortunately vision, despite what some will tell you, isn't always synonymous with great film. And thus, Across the Universe has scenes that look like this:
And even this:
And the whole time the movie makes no mystery of how it expects you to be watching it
I know what you're thinking; Killer, right?
But look at the pictures again.
You see, that's Jude and Lucy and Strawberries and Mr. Kite. And if you know anything about the Beatles you'll see that that's also about the depth of the ambition that Across the Universe puts into its story and characters. Pick names out of Beatles songs, squeeze in a wink and a nod, and fashion a flimsy story out of them.
Okay, I get it, Joe Cocker got famous off of singing Beatles covers but is there a single lyric in Come Together that helps advance this story?
I think not!
Although, looking at Martin Luthor again, whose Jo-Jo character Cocker is introducing, he does show a hint of Walrus Gumboot, no?
So you see the problem here? And so, as stories written around songs not meant to tell stories go, Across the Universe is a case of a movie going in several directions of nowhere in particular.
It's an art film collage, an homage to the 60s/70s (beatniks, artists, merry pranksters and anti-war protesters all included), the visual accompaniment to a pretty sweet Beatles tribute album and a history lesson tailored for the kids who'd rather cut to smoke a bowl in the woods than sit and pay attention in history class. Who needs to know that shit anyway, man?
In other words, it's not really about anything at all. Unless you buy into it's ultimate parting coo of Love Is All You Need, crooned out from a rooftop in The Village
Although John Lennon would probably say you also need skilled body guards too...
Sure it's a nice sentiment, the songs are great and as far as production value goes, Across The Universe has it covered, but with no defined characters, story or modus operandi (it has no idea whether it wants to be a flamboyant song-n-dance musical ala Hair or a killer rock musical ala Pink Floyd's The Wall), it's only one piece of a film that never becomes one clear or defined whole.