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Wick's Review

Created Mar 14, 2013 10:04PM PST • Edited Jun 08, 2019 06:31AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Who’da thunk the best Beatles movie wouldn’t star the Beatles? OK, not the best Beatles movie, but as great a Beatles movie as one could hope for not starring the Beatles, which is pretty damn great. Really.

    Across the Universe is arguably the best movie about the Sixties, unarguably set to the best Sixties music. Its 30+ Beatles chestnuts are sung by a dozen singers – some famous, most young, half female, all great. ‘Spectacular’ is a word you’ll use on more than one occasion.

    The peerless songs form a jukebox musical about a panoply of Sixties convulsions — race riots, the Vietnam War, the antiwar movement, the counterculture, good drugs and bad drugs, and on and on and on. It’s not called Across the Universe for nothing. Calling it All You Need Is Love wouldn’t have got it done.

    The movie’s inventive staging – by brilliant director Julie Taymor – is frequently delightful. But the songs are the thing that make this movie special. Written mostly by Lennon and McCartney, some by Harrison and one by all four, they’re performed by a very good cast of singing actors in the context of the drama.

    • Jim Sturgess as Jude the artistic Liverpudlian sings Girl, All My Loving, I’ve Just Seen A Face, Something and Revolution.
    • Evan Rachel Wood as Lucy – who never does appear in the sky with diamonds – sings It Won’t Be Long, If I Fell and Blackbird.
    • Joe Anderson as Max – born with a silver hammer, er, spoon in his mouth – sings I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Hey Jude and She Loves You.
    • Dana Fuchs as sexy Sadie, the Janis Joplin-esque belter, sings Helter Skelter, Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? and Don’t Let Me Down.
    • Martin Luther as a Hendrix-esque guitarist sings While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
    • T.V. Carpio as dear Prudence memorably sings I Want To Hold Your Hand dressed as a cheerleader while striding through a field of cartwheeling football players. Who’s she pining for? Another cheerleader.
    • Carol Woods and Timmy Mitchum sing a gospel version of Let It Be. Powerful.
    • Various groups of the above sing With A Little Help From My Friends, Dear Prudence, Because, Strawberry Fields Forever, Oh! Darling, All You Need Is Love and Across The Universe.
    • Joe Cocker sings Come Together. Soulful.
    • Bono sings Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and – with Secret Machines – a killer I Am The Walrus.
    • Eddie Izzard sings Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite.
    • Jeff Beck does an instrumental A Day in the Life.

    Beatles fans who have yet to tune in to Across the Universe shouldn’t hesitate. It’s a trip worth taking.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    The songs sung by each cast member are noted in the Summary above. All are excellent singers, a must for a successful musical. If only the producers of Les Misérables had heeded that “gotta sing great” rule…

    Evan Rachel Wood is appropriately straight and then lost as a rich girl named Lucy. Importantly, her voice is strong and clear. As in King of California, she’s a competent if not especially engaging actress, at least until the singing starts.

    Jim Sturgess plays a modestly charming Liverpudlian named Jude whom Wood’s Lucy is fated to love. Like her, he’s not especially engaging but has a fine voice, as he demonstrates on the half dozen Beatles songs noted above.

    Joe Anderson plays Lucy’s ne’er-do-well brother Max with plenty of insouciant charm. Plus he’s got a great voice.

    The supporting players are even better.

    • Dana Fuchs as a Janis-like singer named Sadie. Man is she sexy and powerful. Fantastic voice!
    • Martin Luther as a Jimi-like guitarist named Jo-Jo. No need for him to get back.
    • T.V. Carpio as a one-time cheerleader named Prudence.

    The cameos are the best, including Joe Cocker, an unrecognizable Bono (until he starts to sing), and Salma Hayek as a sexy singing nurse, actually as half a dozen sexy singing nurses. Bang, bang, shoot, shoot.

  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Great 4.0

    Julie Taymor sure knows how to creatively stage a musical, as for instance with her lauded direction of The Lion King on Broadway. There are many brilliant musical theater numbers in Across the Universe, such as her sexually subversive take on I Want To Hold Your Hand. The idea of gay cheerleaders amid a field of football players anticipates Glee a couple of years later. More impressive is the rolling and tumbling of the players as the soulful cheerleader strides through them singing the once simple Beatles song.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play OK 2.5

    Many songs are reduced down to their boy-girl meaning even when their use in the plot is more substantial. Such ham handedness is perhaps inevitable when creating a jukebox musical of serious intent, especially when several songs are from the adolescent chapters of the Beatles canon. Thus the entire proceedings are tarnished by the primitivising force of an immature outlook.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Full-throated Beatles singing. See the Summary commentary above for the list.

  12. Visuals Great 4.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.1

    Sex and drugs and rock-and-roll are all sweetly essayed, as is a watered-down Apocalypse Now-like take on the Vietnam War.

  15. Sex Titillating 2.5
  16. Violence Fierce 1.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.2
  18. Surreal 2.7

    The Beatles loved the surreal, a vibe that Across the Universe manages to capture.

    More substantively, we forget how subversive they were, to Right and Left. Revolution hit the Weathermen and other domestic terrorists as much as John, Paul, George and Ringo’s flower power pacifism challenged the Right.

    Still, Lefty pacifism has no better agitprop than Across the Universe. It’s no surprise that its director graduated Oberlin in `74 with a degree in folklore and mythology. Her movie is full of both.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 3.0
  20. Biological Surreal 2.6
  21. Physical Surreal 2.5


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Mar 15, 2013 6:32PM

Regarding Wick’s Review
I agree. Delightful. As far as breaking it down, I felt it was important to focus on the songs. Unlike with Shakespeare, here’s the songs are the thing. ;-)

Mar 15, 2013 5:34PM

Regarding Wick’s Review
I thought it was amazing. And I like the way you broke it down. Visually just stunning but with a point.