Sunday, June 21, 2009

Here come ole flat-top, he come grooving up slowly.

My eldest daughter was home recently and hired some movies she thought I'd like. I watched one last night - Across The Universe. I'd seen it in the video stores but it looked a little teen drama-ish for my tastes. Not a chick flick y'unnerstand - I'm actually not averse to my daughters chick flicks (like the Amanda Bynes film - She's The Man). And my hopes weren't increased any when I found out it was a musical.

I.don' Why don't I like them? They're fake. I struggle and fail to suspend a sense of disbelief. The songs are usually terrible and it takes a stunning actor to transition between singing to the camera in one second to serious actor in a musical in the next. The plot is usually farcical. The themes are simplistic, if present at all. And the production values are too fantastic to be believable. It's tough, if not impossible to pull off. Name me your favourite musical and I'll snort in derisive laughter (if that's possible). Sorry - but they do nothing, repeat - nothing - for me.

So I loved (most of) Across The Universe. Go figure. I didn't set out to. It just snuck up on me. The 'most of' refers to the weaker second half. In truth it was all downhill after Joe Cocker appeared in the STUNNING version of Come Together. More of that later, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The plot centres on scouser Jude who travels to America to find his long lost father (which he achieves in the first reel). He's befriended by a narcissistic student called Max (as in Maxwell, as in Maxwell's silver hammer) and his sister Lucy. Lucy and Jude fall in love and yadda yadda yadda. Boy loses girl, boy finds girl. The screenwriters (successful sit-comedy duo Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement) probably used a (small) table napkin to write out the storyline. So tick the box - farcical for plot.

The film opens with Jude singing John Lennon's 'Girl' and I'm hooked right there.

Is there anyone going to listen to my story - all about the girl who came to
I don't know - but I was game. The Beatles songs are from then used as a bridge, an audience aid, and a thematic device (the movie's depth comes solely from the song lyrics). Okay - I love the Beatles. But I don't usually love cover versions of Beatle songs. By and large the film does a good job of rediscovering the heart in most of these classics. The segue from action to song was, again, by and large, handled well too. As the actors didn't react self-consciously my disbelief is suspended for great chunks of the film.

It's definitely worth staying the course. At least until the sublime version of Come Together that had me leaping around the room like an idiot. It is quite simply the best piece of filming to a soundtrack since Gene Kelly got wet wet wet in 'Singin' in the Rain'. Turn it up!!


  1. I actually caught a few minutes of this absolute atrocity of a film on SkyTV. The 'Come Together' part actually. I've heard better panpipe covers. No joke, actually better. Best modern musical? 'Sweeney Todd'

  2. I just realised Julie Taymor directed the excellent 'Titus' (Andronicus) So she has talent. Doesn't explain this misfire at all, but interesting nonetheless.