Monday, March 17, 2008

Available on DVD: Across the Universe

Imagine the pitch for the movie Across the Universe.

"We're going to take the story from Hair, add some more subplots that make sense from the era, give it a hopeful ending, and make the music about a jillion times better."

Hair was a pretty good musical from an era in American theater when only the best musicals had really good scores. Director Julie Taymor and the writers of Across the Universe got to cherry pick the music of Lennon and McCartney with some George Harrison thrown in. So it's like a major league all-star team taking the field against a Triple A club when it comes to the score. Not really a contest.

What is Across the Universe about? In a phrase I borrow from sfmike of Civic Center, it's about beautiful young people. Evan Rachel Wood (foreground) plays the beautiful honor student who becomes the beautiful hippie chick, Jim Sturgess (foreground) is her beautiful suitor from England, Joe Anderson (not pictured) her beautiful slacker brother who is drafted into the Army and T.V. Carpio (upper right) is the beautiful Asian American cheerleader from the Midwest who moves to New York and joins in on the adventures of our merry band. Even "the older woman" who is modeled on Janis Joplin is played by the beautiful Dana Fuchs, who in real life is not 30.

There are cameos from people no longer young and beautiful, like Joe Cocker and Bono and Eddie Izzard, shown here speak-singing For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. I watched his song multiple times. It's bloody brilliant, as Mr. Kite might say about his own performance.

In the scene choreographed to Happiness is a Warm Gun, Salma Hayek has a brief role as the nurse. While Ms. Hayek is now over 40, so not exactly young, she still qualifies easily for the beautiful part.

Matty Boy says give it a shot.


sfmike said...

I really didn't expect to like this movie but was utterly charmed. By the way, Galt McDermot's music to "Hair" is aging really well. I just heard a production last summer on top of Mt. Tam. The show's real problem is its wretched, rather sexist book, although its antiwar material unfortunately hasn't aged a day.

Matty Boy said...

I saw a version of Hair a while back and I thought the whole thing was a little dated. I had heard Across The Universe was like a cross between Hair and Moulin Rouge, which was nearly two strikes against it, the first too dated and the second too loud.

Across the Universe on the other hand, was like the third bowl of porridge, just right.

Dee Loralei said...

I loved Across the Universe, I've watched it 5 times or so in the last month. I still love Hair the movie the anti-war message and many of the songs still work today. I got a huge kick out of the Twyla Tharp hat tips in the choreography in Across the Universe.

TCM or AMC is showing "Jesus Christ Superstar", Sunday for Easter. I don't think that one has held up as well. But I'll bet 30+ years from now, Across the Universe will still resonate.

Matty Boy said...

I forgot to mention the sixth lead, Martin Luther McCoy. I can't find a bio that gives his age, but he doesn't look that "young". He's still awfully pretty and a heck of guitarist and singer.