Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie Review: Upside Down

Upside Down
Directed by: Juan Solanas.
Written by: Juan Solanas.
Starring: Kirsten Dunst (Eden), Jim Sturgess (Adam), Timothy Spall (Bob Boruchowitz), Frank M. Ahearn (Flynn), James Kidnie (Lagavullan), Vincent Messina (Tommy), Holly O'Brien (Paula).

I almost admire writer/director Juan Solanas for making Upside Down. The movie is so unabashedly over the top in its visual stylistics, melodrama and romance, that you have to admit that at the very least Solanas went for broke on the movie – threw everything he had into it. I admire when a director tries to do something so boldly different than everyone else. There’s just one problem – Upside Down is an absolutely awful movie.

Upside Down takes place in a world where two planets co-exist – one on top of the other, but each with their own gravitational pull. What this means is that if you are one planet, the other planet appears to be upside down. Now, rather than occupy the vast majority of these two planets that do not intersect, everyone seems to live in the one place that they do intersect. You cannot move from one world to the other easily – some hocus pocus involving a weighted vest is required – and things from one world will eventually catch fire in the other world. And of course, the people on top are rich, and the people on the bottom are poor. And of course, one man from below – Adam (Jim Sturgess) will fall in love with one woman from above, Eden (Kirsten Dunst) – and their love will forever change everything.

As with most time travel movies, it’s probably best not to think too hard about the paradoxes and logical inconsistencies that this duel world brings up. The whole two worlds things make absolutely no sense – but then I think Solanas knew that (I hope he knew that), and was really just an excuse to have his cool visuals – and those visuals are cool, as long as you don’t think about them in the slightest (why for example, is EVERY floor of the skyscraper Adam and Eden work in have an upper and lower – that makes no sense, because then you would have people from above, actually below the people from below, but upside on a lower floor, and … - well, you can see why I told you not to think about this stuff). But having one set of people on top, talking to the people below – and especially when Adam decides to go rogue, and has to get from the bottom to the top. The visuals, of course, don’t make much sense – but hell, they look cool! To Solanas, I guess, that’s enough.

So the science fiction elements of the plot are a mess, and the characters are even more so. Poor Jim Sturgess seems to be stuck in one movie after another where he’s required to do little except making goo-goo eyes at a pretty actress – he’s very good at that (even under a bunch of CGI and makeup like in Cloud Atlas), but his sensitive routine is wearing thin for me. If it’s possible, Kirsten Dunst is given even less to do than Sturgess – especially since the movie gives her amnesia for much of its running time, so she’s asked to look confused for most of her role – and to be fair, she does look really confused (maybe she’s wondering about how the hell these two planets are stack upon each other like I was). The wonderful Timothy Spall at least seems to be having fun in his throwaway role as one of the good upper people – who befriends Adam. There are various bad guys – all executives of apparently the only corporation that exists in these worlds – and they scowl effectively, but leave no impression on you (do they even have names?)

I have a feeling that Solanas came up with the idea of his visual scheme – stacking one world on top of each other – and fell so in love with it, that he tried to build a story around it. And make no mistake, although the idea of these two worlds on top of each other makes no damned sense, the visuals in the movie are quite cool. But there is nothing else in the movie that isn’t completely and utterly ridiculous. I tried to go with the movie – tried to get on its overwrought wavelength, but just couldn’t. The movie goes for broke, and for that, I kind of admire Solanas for attempting to do what he does here. But in the end, other than the cool visuals, the movie doesn’t work at all. Please, move onto something else – and not the sequel the end of this movie seems to promise.

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