Across The Universe - (A Delayed) Movie Review


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Across The Universe

The first image we are faced with is that of Jude, kneeling on a desolate beach as he sings out in a lonely voice, "Will anybody listen to my story?" Well, it has certainly taken me a while. Initially excited by the previews, I was surprised to find that I couldn't get to see Across The Universe while it was actually in theaters. Instead I had to wait until now to see it on DVD, as a Netflix queue. So was it worth the wait?
Well, first it's important to note everything that this movie has going for it. The most prominent is the beautifully rendered Beatles music. Second to that are the performances by a vast cast of tremendously talented actors, and performers. Then, finally, we come to the cinematography, which is, to say the least, absolutely beautiful at times. In fact, there were moments during the viewing in which I thought, this single frame could very well be hanging on my wall right now.
However, despite all these favorable attributes, Across the Universe appears to completely lack any sense of a plot.
As far as I could tell, the story focuses on three lovable douche-bags in the midst of the 1960's as they deal (yet not necessarily come of age) with the harrowing events of those times. Now, I'm a child of the 90's. All I know of the 1960's is what I've learned from stereotypical movies satirizing it. So it comes as no surprise that this film completely fulfills that stereotype. Anti-war protests, hippie vans, drugs, it's all here, dragged and placed into the folder we've all expected to find it. Yet, somehow I just know this wasn't the case for everyone. In fact, I thank God this wasn't the case with everyone because it looks incredibly boring and shallow. "Damn hippies," I kept saying, despite the fact that this film attempts to glamorize the life-style of that time.
The problem is, the film doesn't realize that it appears to be satirizing itself. Although the cinematography is beautiful in it's construction, it's subject is almost hilariously shallow. Let's give the example of the half-naked men, recently drafted, carrying the statue of liberty over their backs across a miniature Korean landscape. There's no poetry to this image, just a director beating us over the head with a camera. Okay, we get it, you think America is actually intrusive with it's democratic reforms and efforts to bring peace. Sure, cool, I get that, but how about a little subtlety? How about showing the viewer angles of an age we are still coming to terms with? Was it really that original to have a small black child sing "Yesterday" in the midst of the race riots? That's the best you can do to incite my emotions? Really?
Subtlety is key here, yet it is entirely absent. In fact, not one aspect of this film appears to not have been phoned in last second.
"What's that?" The screenwriter probably said, "There's a Beatles song called Dear Prudence? How in the hell are we going to fit that in here?"
"Whatever," The director must have replied. "Just introduce a new character named Prudence."
"Brilliant! Where's my sack of cash?"
It seems as though the only way they could manage to cram in every Beatles song ever written was by just adding more characters named after the titles of those songs. What this results in is a series of characters interacting by use of song, yet with absolutely no integration of those songs whatsoever into the actual story. Hence, there is no story. Whatever little fragments of a narrative we have left are interrupted by hallucinogenic nonsense sung by Bono and Eddie Izzard, just because they were available to sing Beatles songs.
What could possibly have salvaged this waste of talent? Probably five minutes cut from "I Am The Egg Man," and then five minutes added to build ourselves up to "Blackbird." All I really wanted was ten minutes of some decent character interaction, some real proof that these people were authentic.
"Will anybody listen to my story?" How many people have you asked that to dude? Because I honestly can't understand why in the world you're so depressed, even after listening to this for two painstaking hours.
Yeah, for a minute there I was really touched by the final rooftop serenade of "All You Need Is Love," but then I remembered how great that rooftop serenade was in a different movie, with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, with the same song, and then I decided I was done with this hallow shell of an experience.
And that's how I went from kind of liking Across the Universe, to downright hating it.

Netflix Moulin Rouge instead.

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