Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Across The Universe
The cover art on Across The Universe was terrible. Even after reading the synopsis of the film, I wasn't so sure about this one. It is definitely one of those films that borrows a little bit from various places and strings the elements together to create something new. I have seen that concept done poorly too many times to count. However, I am happy to say that Across The Universe did an excellent job, throwing in extremely subtle references alongside those that are easy to spot.
The plot isn't so much what this film is about. It is more about enjoying the ride. With elements of Hair, The Wall and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band combined with Beatles references and trivia mixed together with a 1960s time line, Across The Universe examines the journey of a young man from Liverpool on the road of self discovery. He travels to America where he makes a new best friend and falls in love. His happiness and heartache transpire against the backdrop of the 1960s, where major historical events coincide with his journey, throwing him together with an odd mix of characters representative of the era. At its heart, this film is about the music. Cover songs of the Beatles are recreated to tell the story. At times, that creates some obviously contrived scenes. But its okay...that is part of the concept. It is a mish-mash of psychedelic experiences with animated sequences of strange brew.
Because Across The Universe is about the music, it is important to look at the quality of the covers. The cast was carefully selected to create a diverse look at the 60s. The young man from Liverpool (Jude, played by Jim Sturgess) did an excellent job of acting and had some strong covers. But in terms of tonal quality, I really preferred the two male supporting actors, Max (Joe Anderson) and Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy). Max is an ivy-league dropout that gets drafted. His vocals were strong and grainy, which I enjoyed. Jo-Jo had some great guitar rifts and strong vocals with a tinge of Jimi Hendrix thrown in. The female lead (Lucy) is played by Evan Rachel Wood. Her vocals were eerily haunting. Her soprano voice brought a nice element to songs like If I Fell In Love With You. Other strong vocals were done by Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and Prudence (T.V. Carpio). Other vocals were snuck in during cameo's by stars like Bono (I Am The Walrus). You never know who is going to break into song, which added to the fun...it might be a bum or pimp (Joe Cocker) doing a song which they have already covered. Exceptional vocals made this film work for me.
My own 1960s timeline was a bit off. I thought that the Detroit Riots (I grew up in the city, you would think I knew) happened in 1968. They happened in 1967. I thought Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated before the Detroit Riots and figured that the film had the time line wrong. I was wrong. Reverend King was assassinated in April 1968 after the Detroit riots. Both events were properly sequenced in the film and provided direction or inspiration to various characters. The Kent State Massacre was also portrayed, which did not happen until May 1970. The one time line event that was out of sequence (that I picked up on) was Kent State. The Beatles references were injected throughout the film. One big nod that was given to the band was the impromptu concert performed on top of Apple Records. This occurred before Kent State, but afterwards in the film. That was the only anachronism I found in the sequence of events.
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