The Taymor brand amalgamation of colors, textures and sounds unfiltered of any poignancy is something I’ve come to expect and admire. Conversely, I wonder if anything stripped down, less visceral and more linear could still leave the chalky residue that her films generally deposit on my brain. I believe that Across The Universe, may be of her best work; yet, I’m left cold (and with a headache) after the kaleidoscopic credits roll.
So what is it? An homage to The Beatles? An anti-war film? A neo-musical? Postmodern surrealist cinema? The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The love story is overtly pat and one-dimensional, except when Taymor throws in a few nuggets of Bertolucci: is Lucy’s brother really jealous of her being with Jude? If so, why is that never further developed? The other storyline involving Prudence, which appears to have a point it’s working towards at he beginning of the film, never gets anywhere by the end. I admit I was enthralled with the imagery and literal, visual translations of famous (and some not so famous) Beatles songs, but I wanted it to all come to beautiful revelation at the end. Not some rip off of every other post-Vietnam anti-war film ever made. I kept expecting Forrest Gump to appear somewhere during the last act’s anti-war protestor riots.
Another step too far was the kitschy is-it-or-is-it-not improvisation of both Joplin and Hendrix. Once I’d acquiesced to it I wondered was I supposed to just overlook the fact that neither of the two should have anything to do with a Beatles musical, and so I just waited impatiently for Janis to finish the job with the bottle in her dressing room and Jimi to light his guitar on fire. Instead they hooked up. After Titus and now Universe, I want Taymor to try something fresh. You know, maybe a cabaret film about illegal immigrants crossing the US/Mexico border set to the discography of Black Sabbath. I look forward to that.