© 2007 Ray Wong
The mastermind behind the musical hit The Lion King, director Julie Taymor had a crazy idea: What if there's a musical about the volatile 60s based entirely on the Beatles' songs? What transpires is a visually and musically arresting concoction of love and loss.
Jude (Jim Sturgess) is a dock worker in Liverpool, England. He travels to America to find his father, who abandoned his mother when she was still pregnant with Jude. While looking for his father at Princeton University, Jude meets student Max (Joe Anderson) and they quickly become best friends. Soon, Max drops out and moves to New York City with Jude. They find an apartment run by would-be singer Sadie (Dana Fuchs) with an eclectic group of roommates such as JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy) and Prudence (T.V. Carpio).
Meanwhile, after her boyfriend Daniel (Spencer Liff) died in the Vietnam War, Max's sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), gets fed up with the boring suburban life and moves to New York. When Jude first sees Lucy, he knows it's love at first sight. While still mourning Daniel and resisting further heartbreaks, Lucy falls in love with Jude as well. Max, Lucy and Jude become inseparable.
When Max is drafted into the army, Lucy becomes an anti-war activist, much against the wishes of the laid-back, Bohemian Jude. After being arrested at a riot, Jude is deported back to the UK. The group of friends and lovers suffer through the uncertain period of loss and separation and fear. Then Max returns from the war, alive...
Evan Rachel Wood (Running with Scissors) is beautiful as Lucy. Her acting, though, is a bit wooden and her singing voice is by far the weakest. But her sensitivity and sweet nature wins Jude's heart as well as ours. As Jude, Jim Sturgess (Mouth to Mouth) is affecting, handsome and sincere. He also has a great tenor voice. Wood and Sturgess are so pretty together and they share a great chemistry with each other.
Joe Anderson (Becoming Jane) has a blast playing Max, the happy-go-lucky dude who becomes a tormented GI. He has a very strong pop voice. Singers Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy are electrifying as the passionate lovers in their respective film debuts. The gorgeous T.V. Carpio (She Hate Me) impresses as sapphic Prudence with great sympathy and vulnerability.
There are some interesting cameos including Eddie Izzard (Ocean's Thirteen) as an absurd circus ringmaster, Bono (The Million Dollar Hotel) as an anti-war hippy Dr. Robert, and Salma Hayek (Lonely Hearts) as a singing nurse.
Written by Dick Clement (Flushed Away) and Ian La Frenais (Flushed Away), the story actually has a thin and clichéd plot: star-crossed lovers thrown together while finding themselves during a turbulent time. The interesting thing is that they keep the spoken dialogue to a minimum, and instead use the Beatles' lyrics to carry much of the conversation. In that regard, they've done a good job weaving the songs into the story. The plot, however, meanders in the middle with unconvincing motivations and consequences. It feels forced as it plods along. It picks up again near the end, coming to a satisfying finish.
Director Julie Taymor (Frida) has a unique visual storytelling style reminiscent of Moulin Rouge. She combines realistic drama with fantastical elements, dream sequences, and artistic, abstract renditions that blend reality with fantasy. Part of the film deals with the 60s' counterculture and "sex, drugs and rock n roll," and the film takes on a psychedelic quality. Taymor employs many imaginative techniques and visuals in a number of set pieces that borders on absurdism, but fascinating to watch, even experience.
The final analysis is that the film is a visual and musical delight, even though it has a thin, incoherent plot. It drags in the middle and goes on too long, but eventually redeems itself at the end. With its beautiful, talented stars, scrumptious visuals, and a gorgeous soundtrack, the film will please fans of love stories and the Beatles across the universe.
Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy, T.V. Carpio, Spencer Liff
Director: Julie Taymor
Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Julie Tayor
Distributor: Revolution Studios/Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.8 out of 10