Making the Grades
Anti-war riots, racial tensions and experimental drug use all get starring roles in Across the Universe, a film that pays homage to the Beatles, their music and their unique movie style. Using a mix of well-known and more obscure Beatles tunes as a backdrop, the script weaves together the lives of multiple characters living around the world during the tumultuous 60's.
Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a young Londoner who leaves his job on the English boat docks and works his way across the Atlantic by shoveling coal in an ocean liner. Deserted by an American father (Robert Chohessy) before he was even born, Jude wants to meet the man who so offhandedly loved and left his mother (Angela Mounsey).
Once on U.S. soil, Jude throws in with Max (Joe Anderson), a shaggy-haired, trouble-making hanger-on who plans to ditch his father-funded college education and lose himself in the dregs of New York City. Jude also meets Max's younger sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a privileged and protected high school student about to send her boyfriend (Spencer Liff) off to war.
Once in the Big Apple, Jude and Max room with Sadie (Dana Fuchs), an emerging nightclub singer, her new guitarist (Martin Luther) and a free-spirited lesbian (T.V. Carpio) escaping from an abusive relationship. Holed up in an aging housing unit, this group of nonconformists plunges into the subversive temperament of the times, entertaining illegal drugs, alcohol and anti-establishment attitudes.
Comparing this two-hour rehashing of Beatle's tunes to a music video likely won't be an original idea. But there is little else to accurately describe this production that uses only enough storyline and dialogue to introduce the next musical interlude. Original news footage, artistically depicted war violence, female frontal nudity and hallucinogenic-like dream sequences are spliced into the song as well.
For Beatle fans familiar with the men and their music, this cinematic production dredges up scenes and scenarios from their lives and movies. But for a new generation of viewers, the story -- which deftly avoids a US R-rating -- is crammed with graphic depictions of racial riots and soldiers under fire along with nudity, both in and out of a sexual context. Strong language and repeated scenes of the era's illegal drug culture are also portrayed.
Although the Fab Four may have given voice to an age group living in these turbulent years, the motion picture seems more interested in simply revisiting that historical period rather than showing the changes sparked by the events of the time. So while Beatlemaniacs may be inspired to pull out the tie-dyed t-shirts and headbands to hit the theatres, this film isn't worth a trip across the parking lot for family viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Across the Universe.
As an illegal immigrant on American soil, Jude doesn’t feel the same passion for the anti-war movement as his friends. Why does he feel he doesn’t have a cause for which to fight? How does his personal experience with the aftermath of war differ from the other characters?
Does this film’s artistic depiction of war, illegal drug use and riots lessen or increase the impact of these acts? How does the music influence the portrayal of these events?