Written and Directed by Juan Diego Solanas
Starring Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Jane Heitmayer, Blu Mankuma
If you can get past the concept that two planets can be connected by one building without ripping apart that building as the planets rotate in the revolution around their own sun, you might like this movie. If you can get past the almost condescendingly breathy narration (by one of its stars, Sturgess), you might like this movie. If you can look beyond a rudimentary star-crossed love story and see the amazing visuals, you may well like this movie. Either way, I am pretty sure that one would be hard-pressed to love this movie.
Upside Down is a stunningly beautiful visualization of two planets joined by proximity and separated by most everything else. The idea, preposterous as it is, presents the viewer with the metaphor of two worlds similar to our own two hemispheres. The upper, or northern hemisphere, takes advantage of the lower world / southern hemisphere. The reasons why this is so are somewhat convoluted. It’s pushed out as exposition, both by the mewling narrator and TV news.
Sturgess and Dunst play Adam and Eden. Why Dunst is called Eden is likely because they throught calling her Eve would be a bit too obvious. They met at the top of a matching pair of snowy mounts on each of their planets. They spend many years getting to know one another until the day they decide to express their mutual love for one another, the keystone cops from the Take on Me video charge after them. Can’t mix your uppers and downers is the loosely defined reason. Cut forward a few years and Adam, while toiling through a muddlesome existence, discovers that his dream girl is still alive, so he sets out to get her. But wait, she has amnesia! Why? Probably for the same reason my daughter treats a sun burned cheek like it’s going to be the end of her.
The only complaint about the visual palette is that it is dark most of the time. The reason for this is to keep showing all the lights across the sky. It is a treat, though, to see how Adam moves from one planet to the next in a hurry. Another observation is more of a curiousity. With the continual looking up in the Trans World building, one would expect that there would be a lot more neck aches.
This is not a bad film. It is remarkably flawed and its lofty goals are sideswiped by a maudlin love story. What it does have is Timothy Spall cast against type as Adam’s friend, Bob, who is let go from the big bad Trans World company, and gets a measure of revenge by helping Adam out. The solution to the divide of the two planets is somewhat predictable but it really is a beautiful one.
If only it worked that way in our two hemispheres.
(**1/2 out of *****)