Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie Review

Across the Universe - Easily the best [fictional movie musical focused on other people performing Beatles' music] ever made. Of course, since the only other entry in that particular genre is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the bar is set kind of low. Across the Universe makes it over that bar merely by not being an atrocity against man and nature.

It's... not great. The part where an Uncle Sam recruiting poster sings "I Want You", followed by American troops carrying the Statue of Liberty through plastic Vietnam jungles singing "She's So Heavy"... yeah, that's taking the symbolism a bit too far. The scenes in the bowling alley, with shots pretty much cribbed directly from The Big Lebowski were bad enough, but then to later call back those scenes with ten Vietnamese women painted white, falling over... I had to pause the TiVo long enough to exclaim: "Did I really just watch a metaphorical representation of a Vietnam war atrocity as bowling?" Um, wow.

On the other hand, Eddie Izzard was predictably entertaining as Mr. Kite. The actor playing Jude was good, and performed his songs quite well. And I was glad to see they were able to fit Joe Cocker in.

But the story never really coheres. As a film, for the most part, it's basically just a strange hybrid of Moulin Rouge!, Hair, and, for some reason, Dreamgirls. With, yes, just a pinch of the aforementioned Sgt. Pepper. It's really obviously not a depiction of the real 1960s, but rather of some kind of mythic-'60s, where Jimi and Janis were in a band together until they were split up by an evil record producer, only to later get back together for a rooftop concert. Where Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters tripped on a bus to Timothy Leary's home. Where people got high by miming smoking a joint, and where the negative consequences of heavy drinking and drug use are only obliquely hinted at. Where all the young men were drafted, sent to Vietnam to witness horrors, and returned home broken. All of which may have been mythically true, but reality was never that simple.

Oh, and during all the Liverpool scenes, I kept wanting the extras to start singing "Every Sperm is Sacred".

As an aside: Why is it that no movie made since about 1980 seems to be able to get '60s hair right? I'm not even sure exactly what it is, but all of the hair in this film, from Evan Rachel Wood's long-straight-hippy-chick 'do, to her brother's "what is Kurt Cobain doing in 1972" look, is just somehow obviously modern. I don't even know exactly what it is they're doing wrong, but if you look at Woodstock, or other movies actually made at the time, it's just not right somehow.

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