TIFF Review: Across the Universe
by Alex Billington
September 11, 2007
This colorful and entertaining acid trip into the world of the Beatles and a heartfelt love story is both aurally charming and visually thrilling. Across the Universe is simply a musical told through over 30 Beatles songs and an excessive palate of actors and visuals spawned from the mind of Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida). When the young Jude (Jim Sturgess) decides to leave England and travel to America pre-Vietnam War to find his father, he quickly befriends Max (Joe Anderson) and falls in love with Max's sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). On the top, Across the Universe is a love story, but further in it's an often-confusing mess of characters and scenes.
While nearly each and every song sung on screen was exhilarating, there were scenes and moments that felt unnecessarily added and pointlessly featured. Characters and story arcs felt added only to include a certain song. Unfortunately one of these involved the commanding presence of U2's Bono who sings a modern "I am the Walrus" and travels on a psychedelic bus to an even more psychedelic location in who-knows-where California. After that Eddie Izzard makes a cameo singing "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and the trio travel through more mind-blowing sets only to return to New York at the snap of a finger. This entire sequence, although fun, was unnecessary and could've been removed entirely in order to tighten up the real love story between Jude and Lucy.
Across the Universe suffers most from over-editing. I can only imagine that in a full 3-hour show (best fit for Broadway) it would've been much more satisfying, but too much was cut and edited to fit it down into a 133-minute package. While I can complain all day about the characters and the scenes, I still have to commend what was most importantly one of the best all-out musical love story films of the year (along with Hairspray). By all means go see it, most will at least love the soundtrack if not the jilted story.