Across The Universe
Across the Universe is a 2007 American musical film directed by Julie Taymor, produced by Revolution Studios, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was released in the United States on October 12, 2007. The script is based on an original story credited to Taymor, Dick Clement, and Ian La Frenais. Across the Universe incorporates 33 compositions originally written by members of The Beatles.
Across the Universe, directed by Taymor, 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, Salma Hayek, and others.
Opening to mixed reviews, Across the Universe was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. 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.
Across The Universe Plot
The Across the Universe plot and narrative structure interweave the stories of several characters whose lives cross paths during events set against the backdrop of the turbulent middle/late 1960s. The story apparently takes place from about Late-1965 to Mid-1969.
Across the Universe begins in Liverpool, England with a young shipyard worker named Jude (Jim Sturgess). Against the wishes of both his mother and his girlfriend, Jude enlists in the merchant navy and travels by a ship to the United States of America. He jumps ship in New York City to search for his American G.I. father, Wes Hubert (Robert Clohessy), whom he has never met and who does not know he exists. He learns that his father works at Princeton as a janitor. After meeting his father, Jude has nowhere to go. He befriends a Princeton student, Maxwell (Max) Carrigan (Joe Anderson), a rebellious and eccentric young man from a privileged background. Max and his friends come from upper class families who pay for their schooling, so they mess around, drink, and do drugs. When Max goes home for Thanksgiving, bringing Jude with him, Jude meets Max’s younger sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). After a heated argument with his parents about his future, Max drops out of college and moves to New York City, accompanied by Jude. Max works as a taxi driver, while Jude pursues work as a freelance artist. They become roommates in a bohemian enclave in Greenwich Village, where they share an apartment with others, most notably Sadie (Dana Fuchs), their landlady, who is an aspiring singer and a representation of Janis Joplin. Other residents include Jojo (Martin Luther McCoy) (who’s name is a reference to the protagonist of the song Get Back) , a guitarist representing Jimi Hendrix, who arrives from Detroit, Michigan after the death of his younger brother during the 12th Street Riot; and Prudence (T. V. Carpio),(Named after the song, Dear Prudence) a young woman who has hitchhiked to New York City from Dayton, Ohio where she was seen pining after a fellow cheerleader. After Lucy’s boyfriend, Daniel (Spencer Liff) is killed in Vietnam, she goes to New York City to visit Max before she starts college, despite the fact that her parents are against the idea.
Romantic relationships develop between Lucy and Jude, and between Sadie and Jojo. One night, Prudence (who seemingly has a crush on Sadie) becomes depressed, and hides in a closet. Upon realizing where she is, the rest of the cast coax her out of the closet. Prudence mysteriously leaves the group after wandering off enthralled by street performers at a peace rally. As Sadie and Max discuss Prudence’s now-empty room, Max uses a hammer to bang out the first 7 notes of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
Sadie and her band, the Po Boys (reference to a line in “Down on the Corner”), with Jojo as her lead guitarist, are courted by a prospective manager, who invites them to a book function for an existential drug guru named Doctor Robert (Bono), based on Ken Kesey. After serving punch that appears to be laced with LSD (aka Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid), Doctor Robert lectures that the New Yorkers are two years behind the new agers of California, and urges everyone that “time is of the essence, we have to transcend fast”.
The friends embark with Doctor Robert and his followers on an epic journey inside a psychedelically painted bus named “Beyond”, an allusion to Ken Kesey’s real-life bus “Furthur” They wake up not knowing where they are or how they got there, probably somewhere in Upstate New York. They learn Doctor Robert has taken them to the spiritual retreat compound of Dr. Frank Geary, a fellow psychonaut “Navigator”, and leader of a cult called the “League of Spiritual Deliverance” (Geary is an allusion to Timothy Leary, who headed the International Foundation for Internal Freedom, from his estate in Millbrook). Mirroring the real-life refusal of Leary to commune with Kesey when the latter showed up unexpectedly at Leary’s rural retreat house, Geary refuses to see Doctor Robert who, resigned to this news, retires to California. The friends, however, are stranded.
At the cult compound, the friends are reunited with Prudence, who now is a performer in the circus of “Mr Kite,” (Eddie Izzard) a merry entertainer, who wants to challenge the world of show business with his “blue people” (a reference to the Blue Meanies from the Beatles 1968 movie Yellow Submarine). The Marry Pranksters can also be seen playing the instrumental part of the song “MR Kite”.
When Max is drafted and sent to Vietnam, Lucy becomes involved in the anti-war movement, while Jude (who, despite potentially having U.S. citizenship due to his American father, is still living without a visa and thus can’t be drafted) remains comparatively apolitical. Jude becomes unhappy with the amount of time Lucy spends with a political group, “Students for a Democratic Republic” (SDR), an allusion to the real life group Students for a Democratic Society suspecting that its leader Paco is a lothario. Jude’s art and his relationship with Lucy both start to falter.
Meanwhile, Sadie has been signed to the prospective manager’s record label, but he wants her to drop her backing band. She agrees, and this leads to a bitter break up between Sadie and Jojo, both musically and romantically. Sadie leaves to go on tour, while Jojo plays guitar in a local bar.
Meanwhile, the differences and tensions between Jude and Lucy escalate. One day, Jude storms into the SDR office where Lucy works and points out the activists’ hypocrisy as well as the violence their actions invite, but he is thrown out by Paco’s people. This leads to an argument between the couple, which results in Lucy leaving Jude. Jude finds her at an anti-war demonstration at Columbia University during which many protesters, including Lucy, are arrested. Pushing through the crowd to help her, Jude is also beaten and arrested.
Lucy contacts Jude’s father Wes, who convinces the police not to press charges, but he cannot prove that Jude is his son (and thus an American citizen), so Jude is deported to England. Going back to work at the Liverpool shipyards, Jude encounters his old girlfriend, Molly. She is now pregnant by Jude’s old friend and shipyard co-worker Phil Scully, which does not upset the apathetic Jude.
Max is wounded in Vietnam and is repatriated, emotionally and mentally shattered by his experiences and dependent on morphine to relieve his pain, while Lucy remains involved in her anti-war movement, which is becoming more and more violent (much as the SDS broke apart, with hard-left extremists forming the domestic terrorist group The Weathermen). Lucy finally leaves the group when she returns to the SDR headquarters one night to find the offices deserted and Paco and some of his followers making bombs. One of their bombs explodes, killing Paco and his confederates and destroying the building, an allusion to the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion that killed three members of the Weather Underground in 1970.
Jude reads about the explosion in a Liverpool newspaper and believes that Lucy has also been killed. However, he subsequently hears from Max that she is alive, and, encouraged both by a vision of Max singing “Hey Jude” to him and by his understanding mother, he arranges to legally return to the United States. He meets Max, who drives him to Sadie’s music headquarters where a rooftop concert is underway that recalls the Beatles’ famous 1969 performance. Jojo and Sadie have reunited, and their band (which now includes Prudence) sings “Don’t Let Me Down”. Lucy is supposed to be there, but she arrives late and cannot get into the building to join them on the roof. After seeing Sadie’s recording company logo (an abstract strawberry Jude had created – a reference to the Beatles’ Apple Corps), Lucy slowly walks away, overwhelmed with grief.
The police begin to force the group to leave, a specific reference to the Beatles’ rooftop concert on January 30, 1969, where “Don’t Let Me Down” was one of five songs sung by the Beatles before the concert was broken up by the police. Jude manages to evade the police and stay behind on the roof. Hesitantly, he begins to sing “All You Need Is Love”. Sadie, Jojo and the rest of the band hear him, and the police allow them to go back onto the roof to accompany him with their voices and instruments.
Down in the street, Lucy hears Jude as well and tries to enter the building, but is turned away by the police. Max suddenly looks out across the street as everybody else sings and, at the exact moment when John Lennon self-parodies in the original release, begins to sing “She Loves You” as Jude turns to see Lucy, who is wearing a diamond necklace and stands on an adjacent roof. Jude and Lucy smile at one another with tears in their eyes, and the screen fades out to white clouds and blue sky. This is a reference to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which commences in the background.
The film begins with Jude (a reference to the song “Hey Jude”) singing the beginning verse of “Girl”. As the opening credits roll, Sadie and her band are heard singing “Helter Skelter”. The scene intercuts sceens of Lucy’s prom and Jude’s date at the Cavern Club in Liverpool with his girlfriend Molly. “Molly” and “Lucy” are references to the Beatles songs “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Molly and Lucy are both singing “Hold Me Tight”. The shipyard payroll clerk says to Jude that he told himself “When I’m Sixty-Four”, he was going to be out of this place. “All My Loving” is then sung by Jude to Molly prior to departing for America. When Prudence (referencing the song, “Dear Prudence”) appears at football practice at her school in Dayton, singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, she is thinking of one of the other cheerleaders, which becomes clear as she sings the line, “And let me be your man.” When Jude meets Max, (referencing the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”), “With a Little Help from My Friends” is sung around the Princeton campus, the college Max attends. Towards the climax of the musical number, the melody for the song transcends to “Dig A Pony” and reverts back to “With A Little Help from My Friends”. Lucy sings “It Won’t Be Long” when she gets a letter from her boyfriend saying he’ll be home before he ships out to Vietnam. At a bowling alley, Jude realizes he has feelings for Lucy, singing “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Max and Jude rent a New York apartment from a landlady named Sadie, (referencing the song “Sexy Sadie”), who then remarks that Max may have “murdered [his] granny with a hammer”, further referencing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. The scene shifts to show a small child hiding next to a burned out car during the 12th Street riot, singing “Let It Be”. The style of the song changes into a gospel rendition behind intercut scenes of the funeral of the boy, who was shot by police in the riot, and that of Lucy’s boyfriend, killed in Vietnam.
As Jojo (referencing the song “Get Back”) arrives in New York City, Joe Cocker sings “Come Together”, switching between playing a bum, a pimp, and a street seller. When Prudence comes into the group’s apartment, the lines “Hello Hello” are said in greeting and “She came in through the bathroom window” is said in response to Sadie’s questioning her sudden appearance. Later, Sadie sings “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” at Cafe Huh? (a reference to Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village). Next, Jude and Lucy are at a dock, and Lucy sings “If I Fell” as she realizes her own feelings toward him. The songs ends with their kiss and embrace at a party. Max is drafted and during his recruitment tests we hear “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”; the scene later shifts to Sadie singing to Jojo and Prudence distantly singing to Sadie through her window. Prudence is heartbroken, locking herself in the closet. Sadie, Max, Lucy, and Jude sing “Dear Prudence” to convince her to come out. Max is later seen fixing a fan with a silver hammer referencing the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. “Flying” and “Blue Jay Way” appear in the background shortly thereafter.
Dr. Robert (a reference to the song “Dr. Robert”, played by Bono), sings “I Am the Walrus”, and the song continues as they drive away on Dr. Robert’s bus (a reference to the television film “Magical Mystery Tour”). They find a circus grounds and Mr. Kite (Eddie Izzard) performs “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (the song of which his name is derived), accompanied by the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine. Reunited with Prudence, who was performing in the circus and is involved with a contortionist named Rita (a reference to the song “Lovely Rita”), they all lie down in a field and sing “Because”, then the film moves into a surreal underwater montage.
Back in New York, Jude sings “Something” as he sketches the sleeping naked Lucy. In the apartment, the naked sketches of both Jude and Lucy on the walls are also a reference to the “Two Virgins” album by John Lennon as both appear in similar poses. Next, Sadie and her band sing “Oh! Darling” at a gig at a large venue, leading to Jojo and Sadie’s breakup, where Jojo deliberately messes up the guitar and makes Sadie storm out. At some point, Jude is working on a still life drawing of an apple in reference to the Beatles record company. When Jude is working on a logo for Sadie’s new record label in his bedroom, tacking strawberries on a board, he (later joined by Max, who is currently in Vietnam) sings “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The sequence for this song sometimes resembles parts of the Beatles’ promotional video for the song.
Jude bursts in on Lucy at the Students for a Democratic Reformation’s office (“Revolution”). After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., there is a shift to Jojo, seen in the bar singing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
Jude sings “Across the Universe” on the subway on his way to find Lucy at the Columbia University protests of 1968. He continues singing the refrain as the scene shifts between the protest and Sadie in concert singing “Helter Skelter”. When Max is in the Stateside hospital, he and other wounded soldiers sing “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” When Lucy is caught in the middle of a violent demonstration, there is a slight reprise of “Revolution”. Jeff Beck’s version of “A Day in the Life” plays as Jude, back in the Liverpool shipyards, wanders the Liverpool streets. When Max is out of the hospital, Lucy sings “Blackbird” to him.
The scene now shifts between Jude and Max at different bars, and Max begins to sing “Hey Jude” as Jude goes back to New York. Max picks him up from the port and drives him to hear Sadie and Jojo sing “Don’t Let Me Down” atop a building, in reference to the last concert of The Beatles, on the rooftop of the Apple Records building in London, where the band played some songs, “Don’t Let Me Down” included. Jude then sings “All You Need is Love” a cappella. Max inserts the refrain from “She Loves You”, which is doubly a propos, as Paul McCartney sang the line twice himself in a moment of ebullient self-parody during the live recording session for “All You Need is Love” in June of 1967 (audible in the released recording’s fade out) – and as Lucy is revealed to be watching Jude sing from a neighboring rooftop.
Over the Across the Universe credits, Bono (with background vocals by The Edge) sings “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” “Flying” is reprised in a cover version by The Secret Machines.
Across the Universe