Julie Taymor's Across the Universe is a musical that tells its story through a couple dozen Beatles songs and in service of this ambition, it is necessary to forgive a certain degree of yearning nostalgia. The wealth of references and in-jokes -- spare lyrics turning up in dialogue, a rooftop concert, unexpected appearances of Joe Cocker -- may seem cornball or literal, and they sometimes are, but the movie's brand of Beatlemania is unabashedly fannish, too, and understandable in its way. There are plenty of musical acts whose music and lyrics brought to life would not enchant me; don't wake me for the inevitable Light My Fire or Brass in Pocket. But if Taymor and her collaborators can't contain their enthusiasm for referring to as many songs, characters, real-life incidents, and other elements involved in the storied history of the Beatles, I can't say I blame them. I may even giggle along in solidarity.
To wit: Jude (Jim Sturgess) washes ashore to seek out his absent father, and meets raffish Princeton student Maxwell (Joe Anderson). The fast friends wind up in New York's counterculture scene, along with Max's sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and with a gaggle of musicians, artists, and radicals, navigate the kind of historical sixties tumult often seen in textbooks and TV miniseries. Along the way they encounter psychedelic gurus played by celebrity guests, like Dr. Robert (Bono) and Mr. Kite (Eddie Izzard). This may start to sound like excess until you consider the restraint the screenwriters have shown in failing to include any characters named Michelle, Eleanor Rigby, Bungalow Bill, or Rocky Raccoon.
Continue reading: Across The Universe Review