Across the Universe (film)
|Across the Universe|
|Directed by||Julie Taymor|
|Edited by||Françoise Bonnot|
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$29.6 million|
Across the Universe is a 2007 jukebox musical romantic drama film directed by Julie Taymor, centered on songs by the English rock band the Beatles. The script is based on an original story credited to Taymor, Dick Clement, and Ian La Frenais, and based on the song of the same name by Lennon–McCartney. It incorporates 34 compositions originally written by members of the Beatles. The film stars Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson and T.V. Carpio, and introduces Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy as actors. Cameo appearances are made by Bono, Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker, and Salma Hayek, among others.
Across the Universe premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2007, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 12 by Columbia Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with many praising the visuals, cast and singing performances, though criticized the plot and direction. The film was a major box office bomb, failing to earn even half of its total production budget at the box office. The film received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. Two members of the supporting cast, Carol Woods and Timothy T. Mitchum, performed as part of a special Beatles tribute at the 50th Grammy Awards.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2020)
The film begins in an unspecified year of the 1960s with Jude, a young shipyard worker in Liverpool, reminiscing about a girl he once knew and loved ("Girl"). Some time prior, Jude enlisted in the Merchant Navy and then jumped ship in New Jersey, hoping to find his American G.I. father, whom he has never met. He promises to write to his girlfriend ("All My Loving") while Lucy Carrigan worries about her boyfriend, Daniel, who is headed for service in the Vietnam War ("Hold Me Tight"). In Dayton, Ohio, cheerleader Prudence pines for a fellow female cheerleader ("I Want to Hold Your Hand"), and then drops out of school in shame. Jude meets his father, who is a janitor at Princeton University, and befriends Lucy's brother, the privileged and rebellious Max ("With a Little Help from My Friends"). Lucy receives a letter from Daniel ("It Won't Be Long"), but Max introduces her to Jude, who he brings home for Thanksgiving. Dinner with Max's family turns into an argument where Max announces that he's dropping out of college, after which Max takes Jude and Lucy bowling, and Jude becomes attracted to Lucy ("I've Just Seen a Face").
Max and Jude move into a bohemian enclave in Greenwich Village, run by an aspiring singer named Sadie. Daniel is killed in Vietnam, and in Detroit a young boy is killed in the 1967 riot (combined "Let It Be"). His guitarist brother, an aspiring musician known as Jo-Jo, goes to New York to pursue his passion ("Come Together"). While Jo-Jo auditions for Sadie's band, Max becomes a taxi driver and Jude finds work as a freelance artist. They are soon joined by Prudence, who has hitchhiked to New York and left an abusive boyfriend.
Lucy decides to visit Max in New York before starting college ("Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"). She and Jude fall in love ("If I Fell"), while Max is drafted into the army ("I Want You (She's So Heavy)"). Prudence is attracted to Sadie, and becomes depressed when Sadie and Jo-Jo begin a relationship. Prudence locks herself in a closet and has to be literally and figuratively coaxed out of the closet ("Dear Prudence"), then disappears after wandering off during a peace rally at which Paco, the leader of the Students for a Democratic Republic (SDR), is a speaker.
At a book function for an existential drug guru named Doctor Robert, Jude, Lucy, Jo-Jo, Sadie, and Max drink punch laced with LSD. They embark with Doctor Robert on his "Beyond" bus ("I Am the Walrus"), end up stranded outside the compound of a psychonaut, and see Mr. Kite's bizarre circus where they are reunited with Prudence, who performs as Henry the Horse and is now dating a contortionist ("Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!", "Because").
Back in New York, Max is deployed to Vietnam, leading Lucy to become increasingly involved in the anti-war movement, especially with Paco's SDR. Jude remains comparatively apolitical but devoted to Lucy ("Something"). Sadie is offered a chance to go on tour as a headliner, separate from Jo-Jo and her backup band, leading to a bitter breakup and musical split between them on stage after he finds out ("Oh! Darling"). Jude dislikes the increasing amount of time that Lucy spends with the SDR and suspects that Paco is attempting to seduce Lucy; this puts a strain on their relationship and affects Jude's art ("Strawberry Fields Forever"). Finally, Jude storms into the SDR office and points out the hypocrisy of the group's actions ("Revolution"), leading to an argument with Lucy and a fight with Paco after which she leaves Jude on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. is killed ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps"). Jude follows Lucy to an anti-war demonstration at Columbia University ("Across the Universe"), but when the police start arresting the protesters (including Lucy and Paco) Jude's attempts to reach Lucy lead to his arrest ("Helter Skelter"), but is bailed out afterwards by his father-having been told by Lucy.
Unable to prove that he is the son of an American citizen, Jude is deported back to England, where he returns to his old job at the Liverpool shipyards ("A Day in the Life (instrumental)"). Jo-Jo continues his music, playing solo guitar in bars, while the highly successful Sadie drowns her sorrow and loneliness in alcohol while on tour. Max is wounded in Vietnam and sent home psychologically scarred and dependent on morphine ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun"). Lucy continues her activities with the SDR, but Paco leads the movement deeper into violence. She finally leaves when she discovers that Paco is making bombs, but is surrounded by constant reminders of Jude and what they had shared ("Blackbird"). One of Paco's homemade bombs explodes, killing him and his confederates; on reading this news in the local newspaper, Jude fears that Lucy is also dead (combined "A Day in the Life" instrumental), but upon learning from Max that she is alive, he arranges to return to New York legally ("Hey Jude").
Jo-Jo and Sadie, who have reconciled, put on a rooftop concert, with Prudence as a member of their band ("Don't Let Me Down"). Max brings Jude to the rooftop, while Lucy tries to join but is unable to access the roof. When the police arrive to break up the concert, Jude manages to remain on the roof and begins to sing ("All You Need Is Love"). The police allow the band to rejoin him while Lucy, hearing Jude's voice, tries to re-enter to the building but is blocked by the police. Max draws Jude's attention to an opposite rooftop where Lucy is standing and looking at him. Lucy and Jude gaze smilingly at each other across opposite rooftops as the performance concludes ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", over credits).
The names of the six main characters (and most minor characters) were inspired by Beatles song titles and lyrics.
- Evan Rachel Wood as Lucy ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds")
- Jim Sturgess as Jude ("Hey Jude")
- Joe Anderson as Max ("Maxwell's Silver Hammer")
- Dana Fuchs as Sadie ("Sexy Sadie")
- Martin Luther McCoy as Jo-Jo ("Get Back")
- T.V. Carpio as Prudence ("Dear Prudence")
- Spencer Liff as Daniel, Lucy's high school boyfriend ("Rocky Raccoon")
- Lisa Hogg as Molly, Jude's Liverpool girlfriend ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da")
- Angela Mounsey as Martha Feeny, Jude's mother ("Martha My Dear")
- Robert Clohessy as Wesley "Wes" Hubert, Jude's father
- Dylan Baker and Linda Emond as Lucy's parents (the Carrigans, Jerry Carrigan opened the Beatles' first performance in America)
- Lynn Cohen as Grandmother Carrigan
- Bill Irwin as Uncle Teddy ("Teddy Boy")
- Timothy T. Mitchum as Jo-Jo's younger brother
- Carol Woods as Gospel singer at the brother's funeral
- Joe Cocker as Bum / Pimp / Mad Hippie
- Jacob Pitts as Rat magazine employee ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da")
- Harry Lennix as army sergeant
- Logan Marshall-Green as Paco
- James Urbaniak as Bill, Sadie's manager ("The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill")
- Bono as Dr. Robert ("Doctor Robert")
- Daniel Ezralow as Mother Superior ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun")
- Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite ("Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!")
- Arabella Holzbog as Prankster
- Ekaterina Sknarina as Rita, Prudence's girlfriend, a contortionist for Mr. Kite's circus. ("Lovely Rita")
- Salma Hayek as Bang Bang Shoot Shoot Nurses ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun")
Below is a list of the 33 Beatles compositions heard on the soundtrack, in the order featured in the film. This list includes notation of three compositions that are heard twice in the course of the film, so there are a total of 34 individual music cues.
- "Girl" — Jude
- "Helter Skelter" — Sadie
- "Hold Me Tight" — Lucy, Molly, and Prom Night singers
- "All My Loving" — Jude
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — Prudence
- "With a Little Help from My Friends" — Max, Jude, and Dorm buddies
- "It Won't Be Long" — Lucy and Students
- "I've Just Seen a Face" — Jude
- "Let It Be" — Gospel singer, Jojo's brother, and Church choir
- "Come Together" — Pimp, Bum, Mad Hippie, Jojo, and Prostitutes
- "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" — Sadie
- "If I Fell" — Lucy
- "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" — Max, Sadie, Prudence, Uncle Sam, and Soldiers
- "Dear Prudence" — Sadie, Jude, Lucy, and Max
- "Flying" (instrumental) — The Secret Machines
- "Blue Jay Way" — The Secret Machines
- "I Am the Walrus" — Dr. Robert
- "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" — Mr. Kite
- "Because" — Lucy, Jude, Max, Sadie, Prudence, and Jojo
- "Something" — Jude
- "Oh! Darling" — Sadie and Jojo
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" — Jude and Max
- "Revolution" — Jude
- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" — Jojo and Jude
- "Across the Universe" — Jude (interwoven with "Helter Skelter")
- "Helter Skelter (Reprise)" — Sadie (interwoven with "Across the Universe")
- "And I Love Her" (brief extract incorporated into the orchestral score during the "Across the Universe"/"Helter Skelter (Reprise)" sequence, also sung by McCoy in a deleted scene)
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" — Max, Bang Bang Shoot Shoot nurses, and Soldiers
- "A Day in the Life (Instrumental)" — Jeff Beck
- "Blackbird" — Lucy
- "Hey Jude" — Max, Jude's mother, Children and Immigrants
- "Don't Let Me Down" — Sadie and Jojo
- "All You Need Is Love" — Jude, Sadie, Prudence, Max, and Jojo
- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" — Bono and The Edge (end credits)
Extended musical numbers
There is extra music, such as in "Hold Me Tight", to have more opportunity for things such as dance sequences. In "Come Together" on the special features, there is extra music for a dance solo and a well-planned "Six Degrees of Separation" which connects the main characters as they enter New York lifestyle. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is also extended to add time for Max's medical check-up that is shown and for the dialogue about Max eating cotton balls and other theories to get out of the draft. The extended music is used as underscoring for dialogue after "Dear Prudence", "Something", and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Some songs are not extended, but also have dialogue, such as "Revolution" and "All My Loving." Other extended songs include "I Am the Walrus", "Oh! Darling", "Across the Universe", and "Helter Skelter".
The film's end credits identify 33 Beatles compositions featured in the film, either in their entirety or in part. All of these songs were written from 1962 to 1969 by the members of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) and recorded by the Beatles. Twenty-nine of them are compositions that are officially credited to the songwriting partnership of Lennon–McCartney. Three are credited to George Harrison. One title ("Flying") is a 1967 composition credited to all four members of the Beatles (Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starr).
Thirty of the soundtrack's songs feature vocals. Two of them ("And I Love Her" and "A Day in the Life") are brief instrumental versions of songs that were originally written with lyrics, although "And I Love Her" is sung in a deleted scene. One song ("Flying") was originally written as an instrumental.
Twenty-five of the vocal tracks are performed by one or more of the six lead cast members. Four of the songs are sung by stars with cameo roles (Bono, Eddie Izzard, Salma Hayek and Joe Cocker). One song ("Let It Be") is sung by supporting members of the cast. Another song ("Blue Jay Way") is sung by indie Texan trio the Secret Machines. In 29 of the vocal tracks, the vocalists are singing on-screen. Two of the vocal tracks ("Blue Jay Way" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") are sung by off-screen vocalists.
The remaining three of the 33 tracks are instrumentals. "Flying" is performed by the Secret Machines, "And I Love Her" is heard briefly as part of the orchestral score, and "A Day in the Life" is performed on guitar by Jeff Beck in a version recorded for Sir George Martin's 1998 album In My Life.
In addition to the Beatles compositions, the soundtrack features an original score composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Goldenthal worked on Taymor's previous films Titus and Frida. (Goldenthal and director Taymor have been romantic partners since 1982.)
Interscope Records has released three variations of the soundtrack from the film—a standard edition and two deluxe editions. The standard edition contains 16 tracks from the film soundtrack, although "Let It Be" is shortened, missing the third verse. The first version of the deluxe edition features 31 tracks—all of the vocal performances and one of the three instrumental tracks. In the US, this 31-track version is available solely at Best Buy stores and in a digital version from iTunes, while in Europe it is available at other retail outlets. A second version of the deluxe edition is available at other retail outlets and digital download suppliers. The second version differs from the 31-track version in that it omits two tracks ("Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)").
The song "It Won't Be Long" was released as a single on iTunes on September 11, 2007. From October 15 to 17, 2007, and again from October 22 to 23, 2007, the 31-track deluxe edition was the #1 downloaded album on iTunes.
The soundtrack includes seven songs from The Beatles (also known as The White Album), five from Magical Mystery Tour, five from Abbey Road, four from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, three from With The Beatles, two from A Hard Day's Night, two from Let It Be, one from Help!, one from Rubber Soul, and three other non-album singles.
Standard edition track list
- "All My Loving" — Sturgess
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — Carpio
- "It Won't Be Long" — Wood
- "I've Just Seen a Face" — Sturgess
- "Let It Be" — Mitchum, Woods
- "Come Together" — Cocker
- "I Am the Walrus" — Bono
- "Something" — Sturgess
- "Oh! Darling" — Fuchs; McCoy
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" — Anderson, Sturgess
- "Across the Universe" — Sturgess
- "Helter Skelter" — Fuchs
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" — Anderson, Hayek
- "Blackbird" — Wood
- "Hey Jude" — Anderson
- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" — Bono, The Edge
Deluxe Edition track list
- Disc 1
- "Girl" (Jim Sturgess)
- "Hold Me Tight" (Evan Rachel Wood)
- "All My Loving" (Jim Sturgess)
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (T.V. Carpio)
- "With a Little Help From My Friends" (Joe Anderson, Jim Sturgess)
- "It Won't Be Long" (Evan Rachel Wood)
- "I've Just Seen a Face" (Jim Sturgess)
- "Let It Be (long version)" (Timothy T. Mitchum, Carol Woods)
- "Come Together" (Joe Cocker)
- "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (Dana Fuchs)
- "If I Fell" (Evan Rachel Wood)
- "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, T.V. Carpio)
- "Dear Prudence" (Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, T.V. Carpio)
- "Flying" (The Secret Machines)
- "Blue Jay Way" (The Secret Machines)
- Disc 2
- "I Am the Walrus" (Bono, The Secret Machines)
- "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (Eddie Izzard)
- "Because" (Joe Anderson, T.V. Carpio, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy, Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood)
- "Something" (Jim Sturgess)
- "Oh! Darling" (Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy)
- "Strawberry Fields Forever" (Joe Anderson, Jim Sturgess)
- "Revolution" (Jim Sturgess)
- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Martin Luther McCoy, Jim Sturgess)
- "Across the Universe" (Jim Sturgess)
- "Helter Skelter" (Dana Fuchs)
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (Joe Anderson, Salma Hayek)
- "Blackbird" (Evan Rachel Wood)
- "Hey Jude" (Joe Anderson)
- "Don't Let Me Down" (Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy)
- "All You Need Is Love" (T.V. Carpio, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy, Jim Sturgess)
- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Bono, The Edge)
In March 2007, the media reported a dispute over the final cut of the film. Concerned with the length of director Julie Taymor's cut of the film, Revolution Studios chairman Joe Roth tested a sneak preview of a shortened version without first informing Taymor. The incident sparked some heat between the two, later involving Sony Pictures' Amy Pascal urging Taymor to agree to the shorter version. After several months of dispute, Taymor's version was eventually reinstated as the theatrically released version. While the production budget was originally reported as $45 million, documents from Roth's sale of Revolution Studios revealed the actual cost of the film to be $70.8 million.
Release and reception
The film's release date and release pattern became the subject of some media and public discussion. The film had been originally scheduled for release in 2006. The release was postponed as the editing process became extended and internal disputes arose. The film was subsequently scheduled for a wide release on approximately 1000 US screens on September 28, 2007. In early September 2007, Sony announced that the release would be brought forward to September 14, 2007, with a "platform release" pattern starting on a small number of screens—with additional screens to be added in subsequent weeks.
The film received its world premiere on Monday, September 10, 2007, at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was then given a very limited "platform release" on 27 screens in the US on Friday, September 14. The film had the second-highest "per-screen" average on its opening weekend. In the following three weeks, the release was gradually expanded to select regions. After four weeks in limited release, on October 12, the film was elevated to a comparatively broader release on 954 US screens, breaking into the US box office top ten at #8.
Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney and Olivia Harrison praised the film after seeing it. Julie Taymor, the director of the film was interviewed about her screening with McCartney: "At the end of the screening I did the classic thing. I asked him, 'Was there anything you didn't like?' He said, 'What's not to like?'"
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 53% based on 179 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Psychedelic musical numbers can't mask Across the Universe's clichéd love story and thinly written characters." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was extremely positive towards the film, giving it four stars, calling it "an audacious marriage of cutting-edge visual techniques, heart-warming performances, 1960s history and the Beatles songbook" and calling Julie Taymor an "inventive choreographer". The film appeared on a few notable critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007:
- 1st – Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
- 7th – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
- 9th – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
- 65th Golden Globe Awards
- 80th Academy Awards
- 19th GLAAD Media Awards
- Nominee for Best Film – Wide Release
In October 2020, Julie Taymor announced that developments were underway for a sequel. Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood had had discussions with the filmmaker to reprise their roles, while the story would take place during the 1970s and feature additional songs by The Beatles.
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