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Laramie Movie Scope:
Across the Universe

Musical adaptation of Beatles tunes within a make-love-not-war story

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2007) Don't be too quick to judge; give it some time. As this film progresses into its second half, director Julie Taymor makes it better, better, better. This song-filled - live action with animation sequences - musical adaptation of a score of Beatles tunes (none sung by the original Fab Four but mostly affectively delivered with some fresh associations) tries to capture the events, emotions, and themes of the late 1960s within a love story.

A Liverpool lad, Jude (Jim Sturgess, looking somewhat like a young Paul McCartney), leaves employment in the shipyard, his mum, and his girlfriend Molly ("All my loving I will send to you"), for America, where he finds his dad (who as a soldier in England during World War II "walked out" on Martha Feeney when Jude was "just a bun in the oven"), working as a janitor at Princeton University and married with two kids.

By chance Jude makes acquaintance with Max Carrigan (Joe Anderson), an irresponsible (from a building roof on campus he and his buddies hit golf balls off bottle tees into windows), unmotivated college student and son of a lawyer, who introduces Jude to his family at Thanksgiving, including his beautiful, blonde sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a senior in high school. Lucy's boyfriend Danny, an American patriot, ends up in Vietnam after enlisting in the Army; she tells a friend that she never intends to have children ("pure narcissism").

Max insists his British buddy Jude needs "a bar, a brawl, and a brothel." Dropping out of school ("Who you are defines what you do," Max argues with his father and uncle, not the other way around), he and Jude go off to New York City, renting rooms from sexy Sadie (Dana Fuchs), a singer in the Club Huh?

Following two funerals - a soldier killed in Vietnam and a black child during a riot - Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy) takes his electric guitar on a Greyhound bus to New York City ("Come Together" sung by whores and pimps) as Lucy comes up to see her brother with a letter of induction ("a date with Uncle Sam"). Meanwhile Prudence (T.V. Carpio) from Dayton, Ohio, comes into Max and Jude's rooms out of the rain through the bathroom window; they all sing "Dear Prudence" to her when she locks herself in a closet. Jo-Jo (looking like Jimi Hendrix) joins Sadie's act at the club; Jude, lacking a visa, enjoys a "weird kind of freedom," putting his artistic talent to work designing a logo of a smashed, bloody strawberry ("Strawberry Fields Forever" symbolizes the killing fields in Southeast Asia) for Sadie's record label.

Dismissing "jail or Canada" as viable options, Max goes through the military physical ("I Want You/He's So Heavy") - among the best scenes in the movie - and becomes a soldier. Everyone else protests and parties, taking a road trip (color negative) on the psychedelic bus with Dr Robert (Bono) - "I Am the Walrus" from California who says, "You're either on the bus or you're off the bus" - dropping (like LSD) them off at the site of "transcendental perception" where Mr Kite (Eddie Izzard) has a spectacular show for them.

After Paco gives Lucy, who's becomes an activist against LBJ's war, a TV set to watch the conflicted conflict in her living/loving room, Jude objects to the intrusion and revolts against her by singing "Revolution." Following the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Jo-Jo plays "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and Jude, lacking a cause worth fight for, sings "Nothing's gonna change my world."

During the protest at Columbia University, where Lucy and Paco get arrested, Jude gets hauled in as well, exposing his undocumented status. In a military hospital, Max recalls the atrocities (milky-white Asian girls disappearing into the water) and receives an injection (a syringe containing a female homunculus) of morphine ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun"); later in a bar he beckons his friend back with "Hey, Jude." It all ends on a rooftop reminiscent of the Beatles performance for their last album together, Let It Be.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)