Thursday, October 11, 2007

Across the Universe

“All you need is love.”

The film begins with an English dock worker named Jude (Jim Sturgess) who travels to America to find his father. His journey takes him to a college where he befriends a screw-up named Max (Joe Anderson) and falls head-over-heels for Max’s sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood).

Traveling to NY with Max Jude finds himself living with a nightclub singer (Dana Fuchs), a guitar player (Martin Luther), and a young lesbian named Prudence (T.V. Carpio) struggling with her place in the world. Making a living as an artist and designer Jude enjoys his new world until the terrors of war fracture the group’s fragile peace.

What follows is an exploration of love against the backdrop of the 1960’s, Vietnam, civil unrest, violence, and change. Max is drafted, Lucy becomes a civil activist, fame and glory strain the relationship between Sadie and JoJo. The world changes and each struggles once again to find their place in it, stay true to themselves, and grow and change with the times.

Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the music. Set against the backdrop of the 1960’s the characters’ identities, including names and destinies are all tied to Beatles songs. Prudence, Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, and JoJo all are named after Beatles songs and lyrics which are performed throughout the film by various cast members. Over 30 Beatles songs are used in the film. Each is thoughtfully placed, and sometimes even suprising as in the case of “Revolution,” and each one is performed with both skill and heart.

Some films you watch and some you experience. Across the Universe is the later. Filled with evocative images, psychedelic trips, and important themes of death and love, here is a film that needs to be seen to be believed. I’ve tried to explain the basic premise of the film, but that doesn’t begin to cover what the film is like to watch.

The film is filled with short cameos of actors and musicians performing including Bono, Eddie Izzard, and Salma Hayek. And then there’s Joe Cocker, who shows up to perform “Come Together,” and young Timmy Mitchum singing “Let it Be,” providing two of the films best, and most memorable, numbers. But this is a film filled with such magical moments. From Prudence’s introduction in the smartly framed and shot “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” to Max’s refrain of “Hey Jude,” and to Jude’s heartfelt “All You Need is Love” the songs not only help entertain, but frame the importance of each moment and help tell both a dazzling and personal tale.

The movie is filled with vibrant music and weighty issues, but at it’s core it’s a simple love story that rings true. Evan Rachel Wood’s Lucy is the heart of the film. We see how quickly Jude falls for her, and how could he not? At the age of 20 she continues to show us acting chops of a woman far beyond her years. And if Lucy is the heart, Jude is our guide. It’s through his eyes and ears, that of an outsider, a foreigner, that this world is presented, often confusing, but ultimately excepted and understood. This pair, and the outstanding supporting cast as well, deserve all the praise that can laid at their feet in coming off as vibrant and as real as any characters in musical have a right to be.

Here’s a chance to experience cinema and it most entertaining. I was entralled and moved by the vivid colors, the kick ass music, and, more than anything, the near perfect portrayals and performances and the simple, honest, and heartfelt love story. Outstanding and unexpected Across the Universe is pure magic and one of the year’s best films.

No comments: