Get Over The 60s: Part Two

Review in Brief: Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe

acrosstheuniverse.jpgFirst of all, this should have been called Across New York City In The 60’s, which although a marvelous cosmopolitan center, does not constitute the entire universe. [I know the title comes from the song.] But judging by it, Julie Taymor thinks it does, or did, at least in the 60’s.This is the worst movie I have seen in a long time. As a friend of mine put it, it’s a balls-out, extravagant, spare-no-expense failure.

How did a jukebox musical wind up on screen? And that’s basically what this piece of crap is. A handful (and a few too many) Beatles songs laid over a tired-old storyline that those of us young enough not to have been conscious during the 60’s have been fed over and over and over in film/TV: that the decade started out innocent and lovey-dovey and ended in a bloodbath both in Vietnam and here “at home.” [1]

If you were an adult at the end of the 50’s/begining of the 60’s, and you thought the world was a peaceful, innocent place where you could play out your dreams of conventional , “Somewhere That’s Green” values, then you had your head up your ass. And you were not black. And you were not Jewish. And you were not gay. And you were not an immigrant. And you didn’t live in Korea or South Africa or Afghanistan. And you hadn’t served in the military in either World War. You certainly didn’t live in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. You were pretty much ignorant of the kinds of humanitarian atrocities that had erupted across the world during the first half of the twentieth century.

Once again, this movie shows more than anything how white dreams of privilege were fucked up by the problems of dark people, be they black or Vietnamese. (It’s telling that the movie’s only black character had no presence in the two scenes that were devoted to the black experience, here presented by a riot and the assassination of MLK.) The tragedy is supposed to be felt in the sacrifice of romantic love, life and social harmony they (read: middle-class white people) made in an effort to correct the wrongs of segregation or if they were forced by the draft into battling it out oversees to stave off the Communist threat. A film like this does more to foment myth than it does to communicate experience.

There are some redeemable moments. A “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moment reveals a lesbian crush in the middle of a football practice (although that character’s storyline is too ambiguous and a little tokenish). The male leads are really hot. Some of the imagery is fun, if mere eye candy.

Otherwise, this film is part Moulin Rouge, part Rent, and part Forest Gump. It’s a waste of time and imagination, which Taymor does have but fails to utilize effectively here. This is a nostalgic love-letter to an era that continues to be sentimentalized by the people who think they helped shape it. Boo hoo. Get over it. And help do something about our problems today. You could start by making a film about, oh, I don’t know, Iraq.

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3 Comments

  1. […] From this point on, the play bounces around from style to style, from point to point. We are to care about the narrative, then we are not to. I guess when it’s convenient for the director, you know, when she runs out of funky ideas like the soldier underwear dance, which is, at its best, a tacky exploitation of the actors, not the dangerous subversive imagery of American soldiers it is meant to be. (There is also a soldier underwear dance in the dismally lame affair that is Across the Universe.) […]

  2. [1] This couldn’t be more contrary to the slogan that opens the movie’s website: “Within the lyrics of the world’s most famous songs…Lives a story that has never been told…Until now.”

  3. […] absolutely nothing but that is based on a jukebox from The Beatles’ archives, also known as, Across The Universe. It seems that Julie Taymor–also known for Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, a huge success, […]


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