I’ve discussed the topic of my local library here before. But last weekend I discovered that I had never been in the Media room, which it turns out has a reasonably good movie collection which you can check out for free. I always feel sort of dirty using public libraries as video stores and free internet … places… but I think it would be valuable to get over that. In practicing to get over that I checked out 3 movies last week. These were all movies I had kind of wanted to see a little but was reluctant to spend any money on seeing them: The Baxter, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Across the Universe. This is what I think of Across the Universe
This is important because I need to warn you to never see this film. It’s awful. Don’t listen to any of those glowing reviews. It was so terrible that I felt an overwhelming compulsion to blog about it.
Let me be perfectly clear: If there’s three things I love, it’s (a) musicals (b) sixties nostalgia and (c) overstatement of the importance of the Beatles in our culture. I also really enjoy attractive people and colorful things. Given all of these factors, it’s no wonder I was drawn to this movie. Its also surprising that I was so intolerant of its pathetic clumsiness. This is a movie that had three goals: (1) Pack as many Beatles songs into a single movie as possible, cause the Beatles are awesome!!! and we love them and will buy tickets to see movies with that premise, (2) tell a compelling tale of romance with an interesting ensemble cast, and (3) tell the entire story of “the sixties.” All of these are well worn territory.
First of all, aren’t we tired yet of the story of “the sixties?” I’ll summarize: “It was a tumultuous time of cultural upheaval and groovy clothes!!! and then it turned dark and violent sometimes.” Answer: Yes, we are tired of it. And unless you can do something interesting with this theme, don’t do it. It’s embarrassing. (Dear that generation, we get it you guys were awesome thanks for your hard work, maybe you ought to get your narcissism checked out by a doctor, love Kaitlin)
Along the same lines, the film is so ambitious to fit in everything that it lacks the capacity for character development. From what I can tell, the ensemble cast is assembled solely for the purpose of needing to include certain archetypes: “Black Guy who is Kind of Like Jimi Hendrix,” “Rock Star who I’m surprised Survived the Movie,” “Oppressed Midwestern Teen Asian Lesbian,” “Nice WASP-y Girl from Suburban Boston,” “Wildcard who goes to Vietnam,” “Dude Who Got His Part Because He Looks A Lot Like Paul McCartney,” and “Bono For Some Reason.” At times their interactions imply a closeness that seems dubious, only because there’s very little warmth between the characters, or even intertwined plots between the main characters and those who were just added because they needed vehicles to show how there were rockstars and lesbians and black people and hippies in the 60s. The romance is cute. It’s cute. Attractive people falling in love–great. Can’t complain about that (except that it’s sort of weird and terrible that they kill off that guy in vietnam so that the two protagonists are free to fall in love.)
And the Beatles songs. Some of the songs are well incorporated into the plot, like “Hey Jude,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Revoloution.” There were some musical sequences that I’ll admit were well done, visually compelling, and I actually enjoyed them quite a lot despite contributing very little to the actual plot, including “Come Together” (which features a delightful hooker chorus, and unexplained trip moving south from Harlem,) and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” (which unfairly forshadows mental illness and possibly a heroin addiction for the Wildcard who goes to Nam). There are 33 SONGS IN THIS MOVIE. 33. At the beginning, which in a intro to literature class would be called the “exposition,” the film had a normal plot-to-music ratio. Needing to fit in the 33 songs, towards the end the film becomes an endless barrage of song after song, connected by weak plot tissue. “Another song?” you will say, if you watch it that long. and you will get up and play with your cat, or iron some pants. Which is admittedly convenient. The music is also shitty. I forgot to mention that. It’s oversung. The female voice is terrible. The dude who looks like paul mccartney it turns out cannot sing like him. Hey Jude is a challenging song, and the guy who sings that is probably the worst. Luckily we now have Auto-tune, making it possible for anyone to sing beautifully. Sometimes during the more challenging songs, though, (like the title song and Hey Jude) it sounds like you’re listening to a T-Pain song. Or a robot.
Conclusion: This film makes me wish that you had to pay for Auto-tune by the second. That way, there would have been less money in the budget for people-turn-into-water-cloud-sky-scenes and the many many endings. And Bono for some reason.