I'll be curious to see if there's a generational divide in the critical and audience reaction to Across the Universe as it progresses along its post-Toronto Film Festival platform release. That is: If, like me, you're old enough to have bought Beatles albums when they were first released, while you still were in your teens, will you respond to the film more passionately, more approvingly, than twenty- and thirtysomethings? If you’re not among those of us with a living memory of that music as, quite literally, the soundtrack of what was going on in the world during the turbulent 1960s -- will you love the movie as much as I do, and Roger Ebert does? As Stephen Holden does?
Director Julie Taymor – who, at 54, is scarcely four months younger than I am -- does a magical mystery tour through the Beatles catalogue to fashion an impressionistic musical fantasy about wild times, civil unrest, tradition challenging, envelope pushing and political radicalization at time when Americans were polarized by disparate attitudes about race, sex, drugs and the Vietnam War. And while tight-assed naysayers might be turned off by the very notion of a musical using Fab Four songs to underscore and illuminate both the giddy exuberance and angry discordance of the ‘60s, Taymor, to her credit, is sufficiently smart and serious to give epochal events their full weight, even while offering an audaciously stylized and optimistically celebratory extravaganza that leaves you joyous and grateful. To be sure, some critics are spot-on when they complain that some of Taymor’s matching of music and imagery is literal-minded at best, heavy-handed at worst. Ultimately, however, Across the Universe commands the same response as The Borg: Resistance is futile. It’s a happening, baby, and you should allow it to happen to you.