Topsy-Turvy movie poster
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Topsy-Turvy Movie Review

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Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner star in Topsy-Turvy, a strange but slightly enticing drama from director Mike Leigh.

The two actors star as playwright William S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan respectively, who worked together for several years in the late 19th century (in other words, the movie is based on a true story). Gilbert is quite the stubborn man and Sullivan is tired of doing the same old thing, and both are pretty strange. At least that's how Leigh portrays them.

Topsy-Turvy is a pretty weird movie. It is not that any specific plotline is strange, or that it is hard to understand; the fact of the matter is that the movie just isn't focused. The visuals are stupendous, and some of the characters are interesting, but Leigh never stays on one character long enough to indicate whether he deems that person important enough.

In fact, throughout the entirety of the 160 minutes Topsy-Turvy was running, I never once figured out that the movie was based on real people, nor that I should be overly concerned with the names of Broadbent and Corduner's characters. The movie really is an ensemble drama (or is it comedy?), but only the director knows what the names are of the rest of the characters.

Again, the visuals are great. Leigh fills the screen scene after scene with interesting outfits and set designs; after all, the movie is about the production of a play called "The Mikado," which seemingly was one of Europe's first attempts at introducing Japanese culture into an on-screen production. Don't quote me on that, but it seems logical as Leigh seemed to focus most on the fact that the actors were not too comfortable doing something so different from what they were used to.

The problem with Topsy-Turvy is that I never really figured out the point of the movie. Is this supposed to be about Gilbert and Sullivan? Is it about "The Mikado"? Is it about the time period in general? Is it about the blending of Japanese and European culture? Who knows! Over the course of 160 minutes I never figured the theme of the movie out.

I still enjoyed the movie moderately; it definitely has its moments, and visually it is fun to watch from beginning to end. That doesn't change the fact that Topsy-Turvy gave me very little insight into whatever Mike Leigh was trying to get across, and for that I could only recommend the movie to those who enjoy long and off-beat dramas.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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