Monday, September 24, 2007

Hey Jude, You're the Best Thing About Across the Universe

It has just dawned on me how many outlets my Beatlemania has had this year! First the Beatles Brunch on Easter, then The Fab Four tribute concert in Vegas in June and Cirque du Soleil's "Love" in Vegas over the same weekend, and now Across the Universe - a movie-musical with only Beatles' songs for its soundtrack. I knew that I was going to see it no matter what, but the wildly mixed reviews (an A from Roger Ebert to a C- from Entertainment Weekly) had tempered my expectations.

The good news is, I really liked it. The bad news is, I don't think most people will. Like many movies starring The Beatles themselves, Across the Universe was extremely trippy and cartoonish in parts and seems to have been produced by someone under the influence of many drugs. In more than a few scenes, the song choices seemed forced, like the writers were thinking: We really want to get in this song, but how? Oh, I know, let's name a character Prudence! Let's face it, when the two main characters' names of a Beatles-inspired film are Jude and Lucy, you have to figure the story's not going to be mind-blowing.

But since I had seen the trailer and read a lot about the movie before seeing it, I knew all of these things and therefore wasn't disappointed. If anything, I was pleasantly surprised because I LOVED the guy who played Jude, the main character. Jim Sturgess - my new movie star crush! I was extremely excited to see that he will be starring in 21 (not 'til March of 2008, though), based on the book "Bringing Down the House," the true story of MIT students who figured out a card-counting scheme to beat the odds in Vegas. He was just perfect in Across the Universe, and since everyone in the movie sang the songs themselves, he had a good voice to boot. My bet is that we will be seeing much more of him in the future.

I would've preferred someone else in the role of Lucy, however. She was played by Evan Rachel Wood, who is currently Marilyn Manson's girlfriend, as unbelievable as that may seem since she looks so innocent and normal. So I couldn't get that vision of her and him together out of my head, which was distracting. And while her voice was by no means bad, I didn't think it was right for the movie - she sounded too formal when she sang.

Other things to note about the film include two fairly major surprise guest appearances (I won't spoil it for you, but if you watch the trailer you will see both of them), and many small nods to cultural figures and lesser-known Beatles songs throughout. While I am a huge Beatles fan, I admit to being most familiar with their more popular songs... so I didn't get that the character Sadie was a reference to their song Sexy Sadie. There were characters coming in through bathroom windows, a shout-out to the Merry Pranksters and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test... and on and on. My husband explained all of these things to me after we got out of the theater!

If you are on the fence about seeing this movie, check out the trailer and keep in mind that it makes the movie look much more normal than it actually is! But you can get a better idea of what the plot is about. The montage of weird scenes at the very end is more representative of what you'll be experiencing for over 2 hours.

Which brings me to my other surprise about Across the Universe - it was really long!
For some reason I thought it was going to run less than 90 minutes, but it was 2 hours and 15 minutes! They covered A LOT of songs in that time, so just settle in and enjoy the ride. I will give them props for bringing something new to the songs - "Let it Be" and "Helter Skelter" were two of my favorites.

My last bit of advice for anyone who sees this movie is to have patience... in the beginning it seems like the story is jumping all over the place, but it will, as the Beatles would say, come together. Yes, I'm corny.

As the movie is not in wide release yet, you can check here to see if Across the Universe will be playing near you any time soon. Let me know what you think if you see it!

- e

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