Here, There & Everywhere

    Scatterbrained eatles tribute just another un-fab faux{grate 2/5}You’d imagine an idea like this would have popped up on
    Broadway first: A Liverpool factory boy expatriates himself to America,
    winding up in a love affair with a girl-next-door turned radical
    hippie, told in a 1960s epic. Add musical interpretations of the
    world’s most beloved rock band and you’ve got a surefire winner on your
    hands, right?
    Yes and no. “Frida” director Julie Taymor’s excursion into the decade
    of the Beatles quickly flies between pools of sorrow and a few waves of
    joy, propelled wayward by a desire to do far too many things far too
    often.
    The boy-meets-girl stock plot follows a very McCartney-looking Jude
    (Jim Sturgess) — the aforementioned Brit — who, by means of Maxwell
    (Joe Anderson), lands in New York during the turbulent social unrest of
    the ’60s, surrounded by Vietnam, psychedelics and rock ’n’ roll
    revolution. His journey links with coming-out Prudence (TV Carpio),
    Hendrix-lite JoJo (Martin Luther), maternal vixen Sadie (Dana Fuchs)
    and Max’s kid sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), the last exuding enough
    wily wholesomeness for Jude to entirely forget his muted-existence lady
    friend across the pond. In the film’s best sequence, Jude descends into
    the statutory crush to the tune of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” in a bowling
    alley, fellow bowlers gliding and careening down the lanes under alley
    lights that flicker between stark reality and a rainbow of emotional
    silhouettes. It’s exhilarating and moving, the only point at which the
    film reaches that soul-lifting peak we yearn to hit in musicals.
    From there we get radio-staple renditions like “With a Little Help From
    My Friends,” “Something,” “All You Need Is Love” and other timeless
    melodies spun to death on oldies stations — songs that satisfy for a
    few measures before we skip to the next track or change the station (we
    know them by heart, so what’s the use?). Where is “For No One,” “Two of
    Us,” “Honey Pie”? If the tracks aren’t arbitrarily used, they’re being
    slaughtered. Take, for example, Lennon’s Hindu chant from “Across the
    Universe,” written to pay homage to his Indian guru, offensively tacked
    on to the lips of oft-mocked Hare Krishnas, apparently because Taymor
    needed to fit the lyric in somewhere. And by the time we get to the
    “na-na-na” refrain of “Hey Jude,” we miss the epic buildup it’s
    supposed to set, the sound of the world giving Jude his epiphany.
    Instead we’re thrown a handful of banal dockworkers.
    Unfortunately for the songs that do work, Taymor miscalculates or
    overindulges most accompanying images. Prudence’s melancholy take of “I
    Wanna Hold Your Hand” could work, sweet and lonely, if not for her
    waltz through a defensive play by the high school football team. Max
    gets drafted to a visually stunning take on the Abbey Road gem “I Want
    You (She’s So Heavy),” and for a while we’re captivated by the
    militarization of youth, kids being sent off to the 17th parallel —
    until the shot of recruits carrying a Statue of Liberty across a
    dwarfed war set, complete with cheesy computer-generated helicopters
    to, you know, capture the imperialistic clamor of the Vietnam War.
    British cover-artist Joe Cocker offers the best fab-four interpretation
    with his gritty, soul-pumping “Come Together,” marred by an unnecessary
    Fred Astaire skip from a mass of men in suits.
    Taymor’s visual feast can be sweeping and majestic and trippy, like
    during the LSD-exploratory “I Am the Walrus” by Ken Kesey-wannabe
    Roberts (Bono doing his best Robin Williams) or the Monty Python-esque
    “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” But it often fails to gel with the
    music, contrasting so grossly that a comedic void opens, sucking that
    mystical veil of innocence that carries musical theater.
    If this all sounds bitter, maybe it’s because it comes from a
    self-described Beatles purist; who has annoyingly put to memory
    everything from Paul’s count-off on “Please Please Me” to John’s last
    studio jest on “Let It Be” and every note in between; who believes that
    finding a story in the music of the Beatles should be drawn from the
    music of the Beatles, not by cherry-picking every top-chart ditty and
    throwing it haphazardly into a detached universe. Taymor is known for
    her unique conceptual designs (she directed the mind-bending “Lion
    King” Broadway musical), but here her vision is too lofty: She wants an
    overview of both music and history with psychological depth, loaded
    with fun characters and music we all love. Eventually, something’s
    gotta give.

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