Across the Universe Julie Taymor

Across the Universe Julie Taymor
Though the concept of a movie musical with a narrative derived from Beatles songs might sound lame, it’s impossible to keep eyes rolling for long during Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, as its grand scale and remarkable execution simply transfix the viewer. In films like Titus and Frida, Taymor’s background as a critically acclaimed director of Broadway theatre inspired visually stunning inventions in mainstream cinema. As a new kind of rock musical, Across the Universe is similarly awash in innovation, both in terms of composition and overall imagination. The story revolves around a young, blue collar Liverpudlian named Jude (Jim Sturgess), who sets out to America in the late ’60s, fleeing the doldrums of the docks to find the father he’s never known. Jude’s pa is a custodian at Princeton University and, after a cursory reunion, Jude falls in with a group of goof-offs led by Maxwell (Kurt Cobain look-a-like Joe Anderson). With America in the throes of civil rights struggles and Vietnam, Jude feels the cultural shift just as Max’s sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) does, losing her soldier boyfriend to the war. The spark between Jude and Lucy is the crux of the film, though their love story is ultimately bland and difficult to care for. The cast succeeds where the plot and dialogue don’t, and in a commentary track with partner and music supervisor Elliot Goldenthal, Taymor proudly discusses how this is a "real film” with no CGI or elaborate visual trickery, and that 85 percent of the singing by these unknown actors was completed live in the scenes. The "Stars of Tomorrow” featurette explores how hard the cast worked to bring the film to life as inexperienced singers striving to master their parts. Conversely, in "All about the Music,” Goldenthal seems like a Christopher Guest-spawned, new-age space cadet in his bizarre articulation of how the underwhelming (but admirably un-Beatles-like) score came to fruition. The crazed physicality of the intricate choreography is highlighted in "Moving Across the Universe” and it’s easy to see why the experience brought everyone closer together. "Creating the Universe” focuses on Taymor’s charisma as a director, with crew members extolling her spontaneous methods, and Bono explaining why he, Joe Cocker, Salma Hayek and, most memorably, Eddie Izzard as "Mr. Kite” were eager to cameo. In the end, Across the Universe is a wild ride through a well-chosen selection of the Beatles’ catalogue, with enough pacing and visual delights to sustain interest in the outcome. Plus: extended musical performances, deleted scene, more. (Sony)