I was so ecstatic when I saw this film was back on Netflix because Across the Universe is easily one of my favorite films of all time. I am a huge musical fan, and although I do love screen adaptations of my favorite Broadway powerhouses like Rent and Les Miserables, I also love when screenwriters and filmmakers make the bold choice to create their own original material.
For Across the Universe director Julie Taymor took the timeless classics of The Beatles and used them to tell a unique story of counterculture during the Vietnam War as well as the tumultuous romance between a British man (Jim Sturgess) and an American girl (Evan Rachel Wood). This powerful commentary on the 1960s culture of social unrest and opposition of the war is so well done when paired with the sounds that came from that time period, especially The Beatles.
The film does a good job of not relying too heavily on star power to sell a good story. Everyone involved were at the fledging stages of their career, and although Jake Gyllenhaal was considered for the male lead, Jude, they went with the lesser-known and actually British Jim Sturgess. They used talented people like Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy who were never really famous but could carry the vocal talents needed to play the obvious Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix inspired roles. They sprinkle in some pretty iconic names but they both don’t have nearly as much screen time as the main roles, allowing them to be complementary but not distracting. These names include legends like Bono and Joe Cocker.
It is an artistic and beautiful look at a tumultuous time in American history and doesn’t gloss over the horrors of war, the abuse of LSD on soldiers, the civil rights movements’ early stages, and the hippie counterculture’s abandonment and protest of the Vietnam War. The songs all sound amazing, and are given a breath of fresh air when directly applied to a narrative. These are iconic songs that have lasted the test of time and deserve the attention and stylization this film gives to them. Even weird, but amazingly affective adaptations of the songs come across as intelligent and interesting (like “I Want You” being applied to the drafting process, giving the song a dark edge).
I truly love this movie. If I had to complain about anything it would be that I never really got on board with the Prudence (T.V. Capiro) character’s singing voice. But besides that small complaint, Across the Universe is an amazing, tragic, and beautiful look at an era and the immortal soundtrack that defined it.
Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10