All you need is love

Brittany Moseley

In the words of director Julie Taymor, Across the Universe is a “not simple love story.”

Sure, the main characters, Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) are in love, but with the Vietnam War, riots in Detroit, a blossoming music scene and the allure of the ’60s, being in love isn’t easy. Now add 33 songs from The Beatles, and you have a rock opera that may make you believe all you need is love.

“It’s romantic, but also the way that it’s told is unlike any other movie,” Taymor said. “It’s surrealism and fantasy, and I don’t think many movies mix all those together.”

With only 30 minutes of dialogue in the entire movie, the songs make the movie, and Taymor chose them carefully, considering more than 200 Beatles’ songs are in the movie.

The songs don’t simply tell a story, sometimes they are the story. Some of the characters were specifically created for certain songs.

Prudence (T.V. Carpio) was created for “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Other characters, such as Jude, weren’t chosen because of a song, but rather some songs, such as “Revolution,” were picked just for them.

“With Lucy being an activist and Jude being an artist, ‘Revolution’ seemed like a perfect song to express that,” Taymor said. “If you feel (the songs) and they provoke thought, then they will speak to the audience and get them into the movie.”

Even though Across the Universe is set in the ’60s with a soundtrack that dates back 40 some years, it’s a movie Taymor hopes will span across generations.

“I think this movie should appeal to everybody – 10 years old to 95,” Taymor said. “I don’t think The Beatles’ songs date. You can do bad versions of them, but you can’t really destroy the songs. They speak for all times.”

There is one audience Taymor hopes appreciates Across the Universe: college students. Whether it’s a 19-year-old today or a 19-year-old growing up during the Vietnam War, both have many of the same ideals, and Taymor said that will attract young adults to the movie.

“Times don’t change that much,” Taymor said. “The fact that it’s playing to college-aged people makes all of us who worked on it very happy because it’s about young people.”

Taymor also said the ’60s counterculture is something that fascinates young people today who have never been part of a rebellion.

“Right now kids have tremendous independence, and they don’t really have to fight their parents for much,” she said. “In the ’60s, everything was a rebellion — from your hair to your values. It was a time of unbelievable change, and the youth grabbed it. I think young people are always going to be attracted to that.”

Taymor was a child during the ’60s and didn’t experience what the characters in Across the Universe did, but Jude and Lucy are loosely based on her older brother and sister.

“I watched my parents go through the insanity of the ’60s with the drugs and the war, and it made a huge impression on me.”

Across the Universe is making a huge impression on the critics. Roger Ebert called it “an audacious marriage of cutting-edge visual techniques, heart-warming performances, 1960s history and The Beatles songbook.”

All directors love a good review, but Taymor is more concerned with what the two most important people think: surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

“Ringo was the first to see an early cut, and I wasn’t there, but I heard he liked it,” Taymor said. “I sat next to Paul McCartney at a private screening in London, and it was the most nerve-wracking screening ever. In the end I asked him if there was anything he didn’t like, and he said, ‘What’s not to like?'”

No one, however, will like it if they don’t sit back and enjoy it with an open mind.

“I’m into entertaining people and giving them something they didn’t even know they wanted,” Taymor said. “It’s not meant to be just a love story based on plot. It’s more an experience than anything. You’ve got to hang on to those lead characters.”

Taymor didn’t make Across the Universe specifically for herself, but it wouldn’t have left the production floor if she didn’t believe in it.

“I think that you have to hold on tight and have a very strong powerful reason to be doing it,” she said. “I really believe in the story.”

Contact all reporter Brittany Moseley at [email protected].