Picked up a copy of “Across the Universe” DVD from my favorite DVD seller today. To be honest, I’ve not even heard of this show before this, but the synopsis read…
” The film title and main characters are named after various songs by The Beatles. It’s a musical based on The Beatles songbook and set in the 60s England, America, and Vietnam. The love story of Lucy and Jude is intertwined with the anti-war movement and social protests of the 60s. Over 30 Beatles’ songs are woven into the plot together with visual allusions to films”
which of course means… I HAVE to get it…
Right off the bat, I have to say that the plot of the movie is paper thin. It is straight forward and so predictable that you can tell what the next 5 minutes of the movie is gonna be about at any given time. The entire movie is so disjointed that it feels like 30 + MTVs that has been randomly pieced together. And worse of all, it is also more poorly paced than me when I’m taking my physical fitness tests (in other words: not good).
And once you’ve taken away the story, what are you left with? The music and the visuals of course. I am a HUGE Beatles fan. For the past few years, there seemed to be a revival in interest in the Beatles’ music. The last memorable one was “Love” by Cirque De Soleil, which looked really good. For me, you simply cannot go wrong with Beatles songs… or can you?
The songs used in the movie are sung by the actors/actresses and many of them have been remixed or reworked (the songs, not the actors/actresses) to reflect the tone of the movie. Among these are a slow and soulful rendition of what I thought was one of the happiest songs around, “I wanna hold your hand” and then there were the couple of tunes that had been interwoven with Hendrix-esque guitar riffs (don’t ask), and of course, Bono singing “I am the Walrus”. The question is: does it work?
Of course it does! Putting the lyrics out of context from the tunes we are familiar with just show how timeless the songs of the Beatles are. It makes you feel the joy of love, the conflicts inherent in love and the pain of war.The overall feel of the movie sort of mirror the Beatles’ musical journey. From the earlier carefree days of rock and roll, to the psychedelic golden age to the later, more socially aware, politically active Beatles. It’s all there.
The visuals for the show is also amazingly weird. It captures the fashion, the colors and more importantly, the spirit of the period beautifully. I was gonna use “bizarre” to describe the aesthetics of the show but somehow don’t think it’s enough to do justice to the jumping blue men, the naked performers in rich blue waters, the dancing masked women and the strawberry bombs dropping out of the skies. The sequences are just… “psychedelic”. And as diverse and strange as these visuals were, they work extremely well with the music. Sort of like Jim Henson’s “Dark Crystal” mixed with the pink elephant sequence from “Dumbo” and laced with a dangerously unhealthy dose of rock and roll. Great stuff.
In fact they are so good that you almost overlook the non-existence of a storyline. More than 1 person has likened this experience to the feeling of falling in love. Where character traits that would normally annoy or piss off any other normal, sane person are simply “endearing quirks”.
So I do like the paper thin plot of “boy meets girl. Boy and girl falls in love. Girl’s brother goes to war (ok.. not THAT basic). They drift apart. They realize that they are meant to be together. Happily ever after.”
I do like being able to predict that “Dear Prudence” is going to be sang as soon as Prudence hide in the closet. I do like being able to foretell the songs that are coming up next and SING ALONG with them. The lack of twists just add to its charms.
I do like artsy tootsy modern dance sequences that follow hard core rock and roll ones followed by soppy ballads. The disjointed sequences simply highlight the diversity of the Beatles songs and how unbelievably cool they are.
I do like how there are smart little allusions to be found for anyone who is looking… like coaxing Prudence (a lesbian character) to “come out of the closet”; to the various references to Beatles’ songs; to references to real life characters from the era. I’m pretty sure there’ll be plenty more surprises for me the next time I watch it (yes, this baby still has a lot more runs in it). If you’re a fan of the Fab Four, there’s certainly more tidbits in the show for you. And if you’re not a fan of theirs, you really should start listening to some real music.
Most of all, I like the fact that as flawed as various parts of the movie are, it proves that
*i am almost literally shaking with excitement as I prepare to type this next line…*
All you need is love…