This romantic musical set in the swinging sixties centres around Liverpudlian Jude and his American love interest Lucy . Across the Universe uses the songs of the Beatles to construct a narrative around the journey of the two lovers, and uses the backdrop of the Vietnam war and it’s political influence on young liberals of the time to reflect the attitude of the mid 60’s American youth.
With elements of surrealism and psychedelia, the cast sing and dance their way through nearly 3 dozen of the Beatles greatest songs, trying to find meaning and represent a story using some of the groups more ambiguous lyrics.
As well as the 5 or 6 leading players, there are a number of memorable cameos throughout the film from Eddie Izzard, Bono, Joe Cocker and Salma Hayek. As a huge Beatles fan I like the film very much, which, to be honest (as a huge Beatles fan) could have gone either way. The narrative is never too intrusive and allows time for the songs to play out organically, but at the same time, it never feels like the songs are crowbar’d in and all seem to work well within the story.
Aside from the films that the Beatles starred in, produced in the 1960’s and documentaries, there have been a number of dramas made about the band or featuring a Beatles soundtrack such as Backbeat, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Nowhere Boy, I Wanna Hold Your Hand and I Am Sam. Across The Universe is definitely my favourite Beatles related film and despite lukewarm reviews from critics, holding a 5.6/10 critic rating on IMDb and a 5.8/10 average critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film definitely resonated more positively with audiences, with a current 7.4/10 IMDb user rating and an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
I do think an original investment in the Beatles and their music helps, but there is definitely enough in Across the Universe for anyone and everyone to enjoy. As a musical that’s not based on an existing show and that doesn’t feature any original songs, it is quite unique, and I hope more pop-soundtrack fueled musicals will be produced in the near future.