Project 400 In 365 # 7: Across The Universe

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2011 at 10:01 pm


Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows 2 things:  I think The Beatles are the only musical act to ever matter in history….and I am a musical (Broadway) enthusiast.  When you combine those two things, it is easy to see why I was so excited when I heard this movie was coming out in 2007.  But I must confess, I have not watched it since my initial viewing 4 years ago.

There are several key components to making a good, quality musical film.  The first is of course the music.  Well, really can not go wrong when you are working with Beatles material.  The second is direction.  Julie Taymor is a Broadway veteran who knows how to use the slightest touches to bring out a big payoff.  Her camera work in this film is simply spectacular.  It is true artistry in motion.  The musical numbers are filmed like they are pulled directly from the stage, and the non-musical sequences are done with an eye to detail you simply do not see in most movies today.

Another aspect to create a good, quality musical film is the story.  There has to be something besides the music to carry you from scene to scene (see the movie version of RENT as an example of how NOT to do this).  Here, the viewer is engrossed into both a love story and a Vietnam era peace story.  The Vietnam storyline is the weaker of the two, and would be a slight bit over bearing if it were not for the strong performance from Joe Anderson as Max, the reluctant college drop out draftee forced into duty.  Luckily, Taymor knows just how much is enough, and does not burden the viewer down.

The more compelling storyline is the relationship of Lucy (Max’s sister) and Jude (Max’s friend).  Once the trio becomes entrenched into New York City life, the movie really takes off.  The cast is filled out with a few minor bit players (a Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix close, and a lesbian convientantly named Prudence, which comes in handy for one of the better musical numbers in the film).  But at it’s core, this is a story of Lucy and Jude.

Taymor does a brilliant job of seamlessly incorporating some of the Beatles best work into the movie.  As you watch the film, you feel that the music could actually be spoken as just dialog and still fit right into the script.  This is not an easy task.  The standout example of this is Jude’s blistering rendition of “Revolution”, which to me was my favorite musical sequence in the movie.  The other stand outs are “Let It Be” and “It Won’t Be Long”.

So, is this the first 5 star rated movie for 400 in 365? Unfortunately, no.  And it is because of one thing and one thing only.  There is a 12 minute section of this film which does not need to be there.  It simply adds NOTHING to the story, plot or character development of anyone in the movie.  As much as I love Bono, his “I Am The Walrus” number, and subsequent acid trip bus right scene do no belong.  The scene actually grinds the movie to a harsh stop, and it takes a few minutes to get back into the groove of the film.

Outside of this little section, this movie is absolute perfection.

4.5 out of 5 stars.


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