If you like musical sorts of films, the Beatles, or hunting through movies for "easter eggs," or any combination thereof, "Across the Universe" is right up your alley. The Beatles tunes are flung throughout the film, mostly sung live (versus dubbed in after), the characters are named after folks *in* Beatles songs, and there's various tidbits of references to songs in the building names, dialogues, and the like. Oh, and there's a plot, too -- bonus!
1960s Liverpool. Dock worker lad Jude goes to American looking for his father (dad and his mum hooked up during World War II, the war ended, dad went home to America leaving mom in England). Jude finds dad, they speak but Jude assures him he's not there to mess up his life, and they part company. Jude runs into Max, a bored college kid, meets Max's sister Lucy (dating a soldier sent to Vietnam), Max drops out of college and he and Jude go to New York City.
Lucy finds out the boyfriend is killed, goes to New York for the summer, bringing with her the unpleasant draft notice for Max. Max gets drafted, Lucy and Jude become a couple, but stray apart as Lucy becomes a peace activist and Jude is quietly doing his art (due in part to being in violation of his travel visa).
So, yeah... the tale of Jude sort of evolves much like the 60s -- or at least how we all prefer to think of and/or remember the 60s, as well as the Beatles' career: an age of innocence and cheery songs, then a brutal kick into reality that people die, war is ugly, and life isn't as fair as mommy and daddy promised. Descend into that sense of depression a bit, flirt with drugs, alcohol and free love, and before you know it you're humming "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," (and that less-than-subtle reference to LSD).
The film doesn't bum you out, though. The underlying love story between Jude and Lucy keeps things moving along, and like most things outside of the white castle world that your parents build for you, their relationship is a bumpy ride. (And in the 60s, cops with nightsticks help rough it up a bit further if you're too close to a protest or some harmless looting on a Sunday morning.) There are scenes of altered reality, just adding to the 60s feel.
It could have been a bit shorter, sure; 131 minutes for a film is a wee bit much, but when you're trying to cram in something like 15 or more songs, that is going to eat into your plot time somewhat. Rachel Evan Wood as Lucy was well cast, as was Jim Sturgess as Jude (not a regular face to the big screen, though that may change after this gets a bit more screen time).
Toe tappin' Beatles tunes sung fairly well and a good story to go along -- worth the slightly numbing experience to the toosh for that 2+ hours in the seat.