Starring: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson
Director: Julie Taymor
Running Time: 133 mins
Across The Universe is an American/British film about a poor artist from Liverpool and a rich American girl who fall in love, but their relationship is soon interrupted by the political turmoil of 1960s America.
This is a film that clearly could have been one of the most renowned of all time, with its ambitious story, use of music and visuals, but it’s actually a bit of a disappointment. Although having all the calibre of a major Oscar contender, Across The Universe suffers heavily from excessive melodrama, painfully slow pacing, too much singing, and often pretentious sequences that make it so much more of a chore to get through than it should be.
The thing is that this film really wants to be a transcendent cinematic classic. The story of an unlikely romance between a poor man and a rich girl set against a backdrop of a time of great historical upheaval is the perfect premise for that, and you can clearly see in the way that this film goes about its story over its 133-minute runtime that it thinks it’s the next Gone With The Wind.
However, it doesn’t execute that premise well enough. Whilst there are undoubtedly some moments of amazing emotional power, the majority of this film is painfully melodramatic. The romance and the historical story do make it feel all the more Oscar-baity, but the centre of the melodrama really comes from the performances and directing.
For the most part, this film feels a lot more like a stage play than a cinematic experience. The performances are all very exaggerated, and the way that the music comes into play every five minutes or so makes it feel even more like you’re watching actors on a stage than in a movie. Hyperbolic acting and directing isn’t always a bad thing, but in the case of this film, it becomes very frustrating to watch over the course of over two hours.
Another major issue I have with this film is some of its more experimental sequences. The movie is centred around the songs of The Beatles, and set in the 1960s, so it’s inevitable that there’s going to be some psychedelic imagery at some point. However, particularly in its middle period, this film goes completely over the top with that, and forces you to sit through a good half hour of arty, pretentious music videos for the songs that don’t add enough to the story, which makes the film very boring for a short period.
However, there are still a lot of things I can appreciate about Across The Universe. I didn’t hate the film, nor did I particularly like it, but I have to commend some of its most ambitious successes.
Although 33 Beatles songs in one movie is excessive, the way that the writers managed to make a cohesive story around them is very impressive. Some story elements may seem a little forced and contrived, but if you didn’t know The Beatles, you would fully believe that the music was written specifically for this story.
Also, that soundtrack is fantastic. Yes, there is a little too much of it, but when you get one of The Beatles’ best hits at a pivotal point in the story, it really is fantastic to watch; I even had goosebumps at some of the best moments!
Overall, Across The Universe is a film with sky-high ambitions to be a cinematic classic. However, it largely disappoints with regards to its plot, pacing and performances, and although its soundtrack does make for some amazing moments, it’s on the whole a very long-winded film to sit through, and that’s why it gets a 7.0 from me.