Director Julie Taymor’s new film “Across the Universe” has seen both negative and positive reviews. The film is the story of two lovebirds in the 1960s whose relationship is mainly lived out through the singing of Beatles tunes. While this is an interesting idea, it really comes across as completely cheesy.
The two lovebirds are Jude, played by Paul McCartney look-a-like Jim Sturgess, and Lucy who is played by the awful Evan Rachel Wood. The film begins with the loss of Lucy’s first love Daniel (one of the only characters in the film who does not share a name with a Beatles song), to the war in Vietnam.
Jude is a dockworker in Liverpool who goes to America to find he father, a janitor at Princeton. There he meets Maxwell (Joe Anderson) who takes him home for Thanksgiving where he meets Lucy. A romantic interest is hinted but Jude and Max rebelliously move to NYC and are soon followed by Lucy. It seems as though her entire life is in shambles after Daniel’s death and while she should be mourning she instead falls completely in love with Jude.
The film then begins to turn into a psychedelic mess. As the audience we’re supposed to assume that these teenagers are on trippy drugs of which there is little mention. The musical numbers are mostly entertaining but are thinly attached to the plot. In one scene a girl named Prudence (T.V. Carpio) who is having sexuality issues is encouraged to show her true colors through an incredibly horrible version of “Dear Prudence.” Also, her character is almost completely forgotten about throughout the whole film so the musical sequence seems unnecessary.
Almost every single musical sequence makes little to no sense. The most ridiculous of these is Eddie Izzard’s brutal butchering of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” First of all, Izzard doesn’t seem the least bit interested in being in this film. Secondly, the scene is completely arbitrary and just feels like a bland way of showing that these kids are being introduced to psychedelic drugs. If they actually showed the youngsters getting high this scene would have made a little more sense (only a little though).
The real problem with this film is Evan Rachel Wood. Her sings too much through her nose which doesn’t help her monotone voice. The rest of the cast is filled with professional singers and all perform quite well but Evan Rachel Wood gives the film an incurable case of cancer with a side of uncontrollable vomiting. She is so unbelievably annoying that she drags what could have been an alright movie down to one of the most painfully horrid films of the year.
Again, the rest of the cast is not that bad. Jim Sturgess is a great male lead for this particular film. In other words, he should stick to musicals because it might be hard to see him doing anything else. Diana Fuchs plays Sadie, a rock mistress who is basically supposed to be Janis Joplin. Fuchs is a strong singer but her voice is only really suited for musicals and not for casual listening. The standout performer/singer in the film is Martin Luther who plays the Hendrix-like JoJo. JoJo’s story is a little confusing but Luther is a strong singer and could have a great career ahead of him. JoJo is really the only standout performer and the semi-great performances of the rest of the cast are only overpowered by the absolute train wreck that is Evan Rachel Wood.
The visuals are sometimes stunning, the music isn’t that great to listen to outside of the film (do yourself a favor and make an iTunes playlist of the real songs, it is much better than these versions), and the film just ends up being a real failure. In 1978 the Bee Gees brought us the unbelievably disastrous “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” That film had a pretty strong soundtrack (from real rock stars) which just inches it a little higher as the superior Beatles-inspired musical movie. “Across the Universe” could have avoided disaster with a stronger script and the much needed dropkicking of Evan Rachel Wood.