"images of broken light which / dance before me like a million eyes / that call me on + on across the universe / thoughts meander like a / restless wind inside a letter box / they tumble blindly as / they make their way across the universe."
julie taymor's across the universe is a good movie, not just not bad, or worth the price of the ticket, but good. really good. but not great.
it's a refreshing musical, raiding the beatles catalog just in the nick of time to save it from the maws of sports shoes commercials.
the movie's weakest points are that it plays like an it's a small world for the sixties decade + spots of it drag a bit.
the movie's next weakest point is that the concept forces actors to dress up like 1960s icon lookalikes, so we get a virtual janis hooking up with a virtual jimi, + a virtual kesey hauling across the u.s. to visit a virtual leary. this happens just enough to evoke a certain predictability about the narrative, albeit scrambled, like visiting the stations of the cross out of order.
the movie's strongest point is that the actors, who sang almost all the songs live on set, infuse some life into some of the most frayed of the lennon-mccartney masterpieces in the same way that good actors can infuse life into shakespeare's works.
they make you hear the songs as if for the first time.
they sing the songs straight, without trying to make the songs their 'own,' not aiming for a 'high concept,' yet they give the songs a new + much needed pulse.
the movie's next strongest point is jim sturgess as jude, a cross between jake gyllenhaal + the young paul mccartney, with occasional glimmers of ryan gosling's wounded soul. maybe you never heard of him, but he is the center of this film.
he's got a lovely voice, speaking + singing, + eyes that could melt a spark plug. he's hard not to watch.
the rest of the cast is good, too. evan rachel wood is in new full bloom. joe anderson is birdlike, like clay aiken, yet lively + debauched enough to look like he, unlike clay, could be some fun. even the big shots in cameos (bono, salma hayek, eddie izzard) are fun to watch, but none hum the way joe cocker does, singing 'come together.'
across the universe is a good little movie that was maybe meant to be big. but it's still a terrific way to spend a couple of hours--"jai guru deva om."