A long delayed release and rumours of re-shoots have done little for the reputation of this curious release. Set to the music and more importantly lyrics of The Beatles, the film unfolds across various platforms and ends up being an over-stylised, overproduced unfulfilling collection of sequences and set-ups. Yet despite some painful sub-college art student protestations, there are moments to make it worth your attention.
The story opens with earnest dock worker Jude, leaving behind his unrewarding job and mother to go in search of his absent father in America. Believing him to be a professor at a university there, he is disappointed to find out he is infact nothing more than a janitor in said establishment. While hanging around campus he becomes friends with Max, and soon falls in love with his sister Lucy. The friends move in together and find kindred spirits in a bohemian set of individuals all squatting in the same place. As Lucy and Jude’s relationship intensifies, they are put under strain when Max in conscripted into the army during the Vietnam conflict. Desperate not to see her brother return in a body bag, Lucy begins campaigning for an end to the war, alienating herself from Jude and her other friends.
The actors combine standard teen romance fare (between the reliable Sturgess playing Jude and the remarkable Wood as Lucy), with atypical musical numbers. We here the Beatles back catalogue being performed by the actors themselves, and by special musical guests. If some of these are hit and miss, then it is more to do with their use rather than the originals themselves, as all the lyrics playout wonderfully with the contemporary feel provided here. Also the film never falls into musical clichés where by you feel as if dialogue is being ‘sung’ for the sake of it at inopportune moments.
Some voices are better than others, and perhaps some classics should be left well alone (Bono appears to be a better actor than singer as he attempts I Am the Walrus) but all in all the music and visuals are superb. What lets the film down is some of the pretentious hand wringing and holier than thou attitude, in another context this could have been a classic musical. Instead we have a gallant failure that could have been great but ends up being an OK film with a rollicking good soundtrack.