That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Across the Universe

Sunday, June 29th, 2008 8:35 pm—Film

Across the Universe (USA 2007, Drama/Musical/Romance), Writers: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais; Director: Julie Taymor

Unfortunately, this weekend has marked the return of an apparently chronic back injury (insert multiple swear words here). While I was sentenced to the couch, my loyal and devoted sister helped me pass the long hours by staying at my side as I went through ice pack after movie after ice pack.

I refuse to divulge all of the movies we rented, but we watched several of the stunning Planet Earth documentaries, and the Dane Cook/Jessica Alba comedy Good Luck Chuck that, surprisingly, wasn’t half bad. (The fact that Good Luck Chuck is one of the movies I’ll confess to having seen this weekend should give you an idea of just how god-awful some of the others were…)

Anyway, the one I’m writing about here is Across the Universe. I’ve been meaning to see this film for a long time. It’s one those movies you keep eyeing in the video store and almost pick up each time you go. Initially, I was excited about the movie because I’m a fan of director Julie Taymor and lead actress Evan Rachel Wood, and the idea of a Beatles tribute movie is appealing to someone who listened to their music endlessly in junior high school. But the lukewarm reviews it got last year kept me walking down the aisle.

Finally, though, faced with the prospect of several days’ couch rest, I added Across the Universe to the pile and checked it out.

There isn’t much to the plot. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the film follows upper-class American Lucy (Wood) and working-class Liverpudlian Jude (Jim Sturgess) as they move to New York City and face the pitfalls of love and war. They live with an assortment of Beatles-inspired characters, including Lucy’s brother Max (Joe Anderson), sexy singer Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and lovelorn lesbian Prudence (T.V. Carpio).

What makes Across the Universe fun to watch are its strong performances and Taymor’s innovative, insightful take on the familiar tunes. Strawberry Fields becomes a war montage with strawberries dropping from the sky like bombs, spilling their juice as blood and paint from raging soldiers and artists; Prudence delivers a beautiful, bittersweet interpretation of I Want To Hold Your Hand as she watches her crush flirt with the high school quarterback; Jude’s and Lucy’s contrasting spins on Revolution take us from exciting and inciting, to pleading and desperate; the haunting opening version of Girl sets the stage wonderfully.

There are points in the film where some of the dance numbers get to be a bit much; Taymor can be a little too abstract, and I found myself glancing at the clock a couple times. But there aren’t many of those moments. Watching Across the Universe is sort of like watching a more sedate Moulin Rouge; some of it is grating, but the parts that work make it worthwhile. I’m thinking of the Elephant Love Medley, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s fabulous rooftop duet. There’s nothing in Across the Universe that’s quite on par with that, but it certainly features many songs and moments that make you feel.

When I asked my sister what she thought of Across the Universe, she concurred: “Overall I liked it, but sometimes I thought it was a little too much about the crazy visual effects and it got a little boring.”

So there you have it. I recommend the movie if you love Beatles music or are a romantic at heart. And for everything else, Ibuprofen.

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