Okay, what bumblehead recommended this movie?! I have got to stop doing this — going to see a movie or play based on the fact that there’s supposed to be some miniscule amount of dancing. (Did the same with Gypsy, knowing only that the production I was to see contained original Jerome Robbins choreography and therefore expecting West Side Story, not realizing “choreography” can sometimes mean simply placement of actors on a stage). Someone — I think it was Dance Magazine in one of their e-newsletters — mentioned that the brilliant Desmond Richardson was to be in this movie (Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” — could they have come up with just a slightly more imaginative title??), which, according to the credits, he was, but I have no idea where. Probably in the one scene that looked like it was trying incredibly hard to be something out of The Wall, with cartoonish block-headed military goons doing some kind of group number that looked like it required people slightly more skilled with body movement than actors, but cannot under any circumstances be called dance. Why someone of Desmond’s stature would take on something that amounted to extra work I have no idea.
Anyway, lack of dance and the beautiful Desmond aside, this movie in a word sucked. It was full of cliches, bad acting, an utterly boring and predictable narrative, cheesy cameos (could anyone make Bono look creepier than Taymor), and renditions of the greatest songs of our time that somehow, obscenely sucked the life right out of them (the sole exception to this being “Let it Be” which begins with a young African American boy cowering in the entrails of a burned-out car during a race riot and climaxes with a black choir belting out the lyrics during the slain boy’s funeral).
The only way I made it through the whole thing was this guy. I guess you can’t really blame actors for crappy material; perhaps the fact Joe Anderson gave all the scenes he was in an actual heartbeat attests to his skill. I’ll have to see more of him. Dana Fuchs‘s Janis Joplin-esque diva was fun at the start but somehow began to drain you, likely because of the predictability of her character. I enjoyed her performance far more in the original, off-Broadway play, “Love, Janis.”
Interestingly, there’s a split-second Butoh sequence during one of the Vietnam scenes that failed only semi-miserably because of, once again, the cliched way in which it’s used. Of course, unlike with real Butoh, the dancers here are all women instead of a combo of sexes since male nudity in movies might spook the fifteen-year-old straight boy who it’s assumed is their main patron, or maybe his parents, or whoever … the powers that be who need to maintain for whatever reason the sexist, homophobic status quo. Anyway, I guess kudos to Taymor for even trying to inject a bit of multiculturalism into her film.
The twenty-somethings in my audience cheered wildly at the film’s end, so maybe it’s just that I am just too old for it What gets me is, gasp and moan though these young people did during the scenes involving the Vietnam war and the violent police crackdown on campus protesters, do these people see any relevance whatsoever to what is going on in the world today? What’s the difference between the 60s and today? No baby-boom-produced generation gap? Is it because those who are serving in the current war are largely not white and from middle-class families?
So, to the young people who happen to read my blog: perhaps you will really enjoy this movie. If you do see it, though, please please please please please think when you see those aforementioned scenes of all the people coming home in body bags today. Just because they are black and Latino and working-class, unlike the characters in the film, they are still human.