Who Bought It?: It’s always Megan. Every damn time.
Why?: Honestly can’t remember if it was given to me or if I bought it.
Non-Buyer’s Response: I never would have bought this movie. Every damn time.
Megan’s Thoughts: I remember how excited I was to see this movie when it came out in theatres. My musical theatre friends and I spent months watching the same trailer over and over. We researched Julie Taymor (who is an inspiring power-house of a woman). We saw this movie the weekend it opened.
I was disappointed when I saw it in theatres, but was also impressed by the production values of the film (I suppose I should have been, with the estimated $73 million budget.) This time around, my disappointment was harder to ignore.
Though I think the Beatles lend themselves well to a musical, it was as if Taymor played a game of “how many songs can I shove into 133 minutes. The answer is: a shit ton and not all of them belong, even if they were probably super fun to sing and stuff.
Having just seen Absolute Beginners, I found myself having similar thoughts of confusion and boredom during the movie. Though I suppose it’s a movie about Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), we sidestep into at least five other characters lives that take us down distracting detours from what, at its heart, is a love story?
I have so many questions, and so few answers, and now they’re all buzzing in my head and I will probably lay awake for an hour tonight just trying to understand why, when Jude was kicked out of the states, he was able to get back in on a whim. Or why Prudence was even a character. Or why Max (the character) was all bugged out with his PTSD and then suddenly was ok and driving a cab again and isn’t life grand? Or why we got on a bus with Bono.
Because I suppose what got to me the most, what I couldn’t get behind, was that I think Taymor was trying to make me believe that “all I need is love.” And I’m not buying it. I feel like if I was more familiar with The Beatles, if I was truly a fan instead of a casual observer of their work, maybe I’d feel differently. But that’s why this is a toss.
Though it’s almost worth keeping for Joe Cocker.
Max’s Thoughts: Megan mentioned Julie Taymor. Powerhouse or not, she’s the director responsible for the beautifully boring Frida and the stunningly gory (but somehow still boring) Shakespeare adaptation Titus. After seeing those two flicks and now seeing Across the Universe I have concluded that Taymor’s aesthetic is much better suited for the stage, where she produced the brilliant musical The Lion King. Megan covered most of what’s wrong here: there’s simply way too much going on. At around the 35 minute mark we were introduced to a new character (whose name I still don’t know, but he was the black guitar player) and I said “Who the fuck is this guy? I don’t even know the British dude’s name yet!”
Maybe this is what watching Game of Thrones is like for people who haven’t read the books.
Across the Universe is the classic story of a boy and a girl from two different worlds. Boy meets girl, boy licenses a bunch of Beatles’ songs and uses them to woo her, girl loses brother to The War, boy loses girl, girl gets arrested for protesting The War and everyone is dancing, terrifying puppets.
Seriously, how much did this movie cost? Between licensing the music and building about a thousand motorized sets and then the costumes, there was clearly not enough money left in the budget for actors. Eddie Izzard (above, being terrifying as Mr. Kite) is arguably the film’s biggest and best star, and it shows.
Taymor doesn’t handle her inexperienced actors well (this was Sturgess’ first major role and it remains Joe Anderson’s only major role). So much attention is paid to blocking and choreography, it comes at the expense of the actors’ ability to perform. Amidst all the dancing and clockwork-like human movement, there is little true emotion or humanity. Everyone’s going through steps. Everything’s a dance. Everyone plays their part in that machine nicely, but it leaves the movie feeling like there’s a vacuum where its humanity should be.
Bonus brownie points for a few great moments. I’d never realized how much I needed to see Joe Cocker as a Cuban (Puerto Rican? Italian? Dominican?) pimp until now. Taymor also committed to film two of the most hilariously inaccurate sports scenes I’ve ever come across, one of football and another of bowling.
But my favourite moment from a movie I want to toss is at the end, when Jude returns to America to the tune of “Hey Jude” (yeah, this flick doesn’t use the songs in a particularly creative way), Max first sees him while singing the screamy “HEY JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE JUDIE WAAAOWWW!” part of the song. That was awesome. But still. We’re going introduce this one to my silver hammer.