Across the Universe (2007)

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Bono, Eddie Izzard, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther, TV Carpio, Salma Hayek

Directed by: Julie Taymor

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Jim Sturgess as Jude in Across the Universe

What do you get if you cross Moulin Rouge and Rent with Forrest Gump and Backbeat? Well, Abba have Mamma Mia, Queen have We Will Rock You and even the Proclaimers have Sunshine on Leith, and now John, Paul, George and Ringo have Across the Universe, a bizarre but beautiful fantasy love story set to the music of the Beatles.

Our hero, Jude (could he really be called anything else? or be played by an actor who looks any less like a young Paul McCartney than Jim Sturgess?) chucks in his job in the Liverpool shipyards to travel to America in search of his father, a Yankee GI who left his mother after the war. While over there, he encounters Max (Joe Anderson), a golden-haired frat boy drop out, and his high school darling of a sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), who Jude falls for immediately. Together, the two lads head to New York to pursue the Bohemian dream, renting rooms in a run down apartment in Greenwich Village from a foxy, less-tragic Janis Joplin figure called Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and her sexy, less-druggy Jimi Hendrix guitarist and lover Jojo (Martin Luther).

Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite in Across the Universe

But despite this somewhat cleaned up, nice and jolly, Oliver!-esque view of the Village in the 1960s, storm clouds are gathering as the war in Vietnam becomes increasingly hard to avoid – and impossible for Max, who is sent his call up papers. After a psychedelic detour in a hippy love-in bus helmed by Bono (?), via what can only be described as Monty Python's Flying Circus, with a deranged, painted Eddie Izzard as the ringmaster, Max is off to war, while Jude, an illegal alien without a visa, becomes and artist and Lucy gets caught up in radical protest politics.

And, well, that's pretty much the entire plot of this two hour ten minute movie – bar the ending, which I won't spoil for you, except to say that it's well worth the wait. The script was penned by the dynamic duo of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, but, in fact, dialogue is pretty thin on the ground: this is a film that lets the music do the talking, and is at its best when indulging in glorious, fantastical sequences that combine the horror of the Vietnam war with the psychedelic glamour of the '60s, the naïve magic of young love and some of the most inventive, distinctive and achingly beautiful music of the 20th century, performed to perfection by a youthful, good looking, superbly talented and largely unknown cast.

Joe Anderson as Max and Jim Sturgess as Jude in Across the Universe

Whimsical, moving and brilliantly creative, this loving homage to the Beatles pays a fitting tribute to their genius, from its gritty, working class Scouse origins to the highflying, uplifting triumph of the climax. Sure, it does go on a bit, and some of the songs are a wee bit shoe-horned in (when a character introduces herself as Prudence, it's kinda obvious where we're heading next) but that doesn't stop this being a truly delightful film. And you don't even need to be a Fab Four fan to enjoy it either: all you need is love – and maybe a pair of rose-tinted spectacles – to come out of the cinema feeling on top of the world.

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