Some of my movie fads and faves come and go, but it looks like I'll be doing plenty more musical movies. This time, Julie Taymor's take on the Beatles: Across the Universe (2007).
It's the story of Jude (Jim Sturges), a lad from Liverpool who comes to America in the 60s. He meets Max (not Maxwell) and his sister Lucy (Joe Anderson and Rachel Evan Wood) and has adventures, all to the tune of the Beatles' greatest hits. Max is a madcap rebel, who rooms with Jude at Sadie's place - played by Dana Fuchs, Sadie is a Janis Joplin type who sounds great doing songs like "Helter Skelter" and "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?". Her boyfriend is a Hendrix symbol, Jo-Jo, played by Martin Luther McCoy, with a lot of soul - I thought he might be more of a Buddy Guy type, a less demonic than Hendrix.
And so on. A cute little runaway named Prudence (T.V. Carpio) comes in through the bathroom window, then won't come out of the closet and play. The gang falls in with a psychedelic bus driver played by Bono, with muttonchops and mustache ala Sonny Bono (furry vest and all). They wind up at the League of Spiritual Development where the Breadloaf Puppet Theater puts on a show - you think you'll get out of a Julie Taymor production with no giant puppets?
Max gets drafted. MLK gets shot. Lucy protests. Drugs are kept to a minimum for the ratings, except for "I Need a Fix" from "Happiness is a Warm Gun", with Salma Hayek as a rock 'n' roll nurse. Everybody does their own singing, and it's pretty great - the leads are only workmanly, I'm afraid, but nobody is embarrassing and we get some great oddities like Joe Cocker (!) singing "Come Together" and Eddie Izzard (in a Rip Torn beard) doing a smashing "Mr. Kite".
The story is a bit wet, not bad, not great. One thing I have to say - I lived through those years and the hair and clothes and overall feeling was spot-on. You might have seen some of my friends in those party scenes. The real fun is in Julie Taymore's surreal, over-the-top production.
This may not be for true Beatles fans - too many liberties, too much cuteness that doesn't pay off (Max does not kill anyone with a silver hammer, they just awkwardly squeeze in a reference). But, hey, everybody likes the Beatles, and you'll like this too.