Finally, along comes a screen musical that doesn’t disappoint. The problem with the likes of Hairspray and Chicago was that they couldn’t escape their stage origins – they still felt like (sometimes awkward) adaptations. Across the Universe is an original musical film (excepting the music itself, of course), and I wonder if this makes all the difference.
At times resembling an extended video clip, Julie Taymor’s film is visually stunning. The cinematography is beautiful, even in the quieter moments, and when things get trippy it looks even better. Every frame is fantastic. Taymor directed ‘The Lion King’ stage musical, so it comes as no surprise that she knows how to put on a big show.
Of course, it helps when you’re stealing the music from The Beatles, but it’s somehow done with style. All the songs ‘fit’ perfectly within the narrative, sometimes in an abstract manner, and sometimes rather literal, as in ‘Dear Prudence’ or ‘Hey Jude’. Some songs like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ take on an entirely different meaning. All the singing is fantastic, and puts much of the celebrity-driven Hairspray to shame. The two leads, Evan Rachael Wood (Lucy) and lesser-known Jim Sturgess (Jude) have fantastic voices, and their love story is the central focus of the film. Other highlights include cameos by Bono as the trippy Dr. Robert singing ‘I am the Walrus’, Joe Cocker as the pimp singing ‘Come Together’, and Eddie Izzard with a brilliant version of ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite’. The score tying it all together is also great and the sound design is wonderful.
One of the best aspects of the film is its ability to eschew the normal cringe-worthy moments of musicals. I’m not entirely sure how, but those awkward ‘oh no they’re about to sing’ moments seem to be missing from Across the Universe. This could be because of the deliberate blurring of diegetic and non-diegetic aural elements, or simply its use of montage.
I loved this film. The plot is rather thin on the ground, but how can you complain when ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ features a bunch of cookie-cutter soldiers struggling to carry the Statue of Liberty across a Vietnamese swamp?Rating: