I saw the movie Across the Universe this weekend. While I enjoyed watching it, I'm torn between liking it and thinking it was just a poor attempt at capitalizing on the sentimentality surrounding the Beatles, the 60's, hippies, and the Vietnam War.
I loved the use of the Beatles' music. All of the characters were created from people in the songs. It was also very beautiful and interesting to watch. Jim Sturgess, who played Jude, and Joe Anderson, who played Max, absolutely made the movie for me. They had the best screen presence, and because their characters were taken from such a traditional viewpoint, they really grounded the whole movie for me. I would have loved if the movie would have been centered more on their friendship. It would have been an interesting play on the Lennon-McCarthy partnership that was so uniquely balanced on their differences. I also liked that the inclusion of Bono, Joe Cocker, and Salma Hayek was so played down, yet striking in the movie. Very nice touch.
I actually loved all of the characters except for Lucy. She was such a follower, and I never got that she had a strong sense of self or purpose. Usually the main character goes through some sort of an epiphany or growth of character, but it ended just as it started in her waiting around for the guy to come find her. Maybe part of it was that I just didn't feel like Evan Rachel Wood had a very inspiring screen presence; I found her whinny and boring. Maybe if she had more to lose, I would have felt like there was a chance she would lose, her story line would have had a stronger impact. Because she didn't, Jude stole the whole movie.
Sadly, with all of its potential, this movie had the most poorly developed plot that I have seen in a really long time. I spent far too much time trying to figure out what was going on and how all of the different story lines were going to fit together. It never converged into a good theme. Ending with the whole group singing All You Need Is Love is just too cheap and easy.
About 20 minutes of the movie went into their drug experiences. The scenes were interesting and beautiful to watch, but they hit a point of getting too bizarre and let it drag on too long. Again, it got to a place where you thought there was going to be character development, but you ended up just watching for camera tricks and good music.
The most interesting part of the story was the social commentary on the war and its effects on the characters. This was sadly glazed over and quickly joked away at the end.
I know that I'll want to watch this movie again when it comes out on DVD, but this time I won't be looking for a great story. I'll watch just to enjoy the music and the cinematography.
As a side note, I bought the soundtrack, and while a lot of the songs were cut, it's fun to listen to. I would love a second CD with some of the songs that were cut. Was anyone else wondering when they were going to add Maxwell's Silver Hammer?