a review by Nalini Haynes
Upside Down stars Jim Sturgess as Adam and Kirsten Dunst as Eden; they fell in love as teenagers although they live on twinned worlds where they can only be together briefly before contact with material of the other world starts burning.
In a universe that is not our own, two worlds with inverted gravity dangle within a few metres of each other. The one above is very wealthy. The one below is desperately poor. The people of the two worlds are forbidden to interact, even though they can see each other…
Adam lives humbly “down below” trying to make ends meet, but his romantic spirit holds on to the memory of a girl he met once upon a time from the other, affluent world, a girl named Eden. Their childhood flirtation becomes an impossible love. But when he catches a glimpse of grown‐up Eve on television, nothing will get in the way of getting her back.
Adam lives more than humbly: he’s a second-class citizen living in poverty in this twinned world due to being born on the wrong side of the gravity divide.
Adam’s boss, Albert (Blu Mankuma), is the token black dude-slash-mentor who is righteously pissed off with Adam when Albert feels Adam sold out by getting a job with Transworld, the evil corporation making money from ripping resources out of ‘Down Below’ while keeping Down Below citizens in abject poverty.
Upside Down could have been your average Romeo and Juliet romance crossing caste or class lines except the spectacular world-building places this movie in the ‘extraordinary’ category. I haven’t seen world-building in a movie like this since Inception.
World-building and artwork
Complex world-building is explained by Adam acting as narrator in opening sequences, accompanied by beautiful artwork.
OMG I need the art book for this movie!
Social comment abounds with society divided into rich and poor by birthright; this was very simplistic and two-dimensional but there was SO MUCH story to fit into this movie. Sequels or even a book could explore so much more.
As the story continues, breath-taking images support the narrative. Landscape images from Upside Down would be a delight on any wall.
My only criticism of the artwork is that special effects liquids tend to look flat. I love colour and have spent some time looking into liquids and bubbles in particular, to learn that liquids sparkle in tonal range and bubbles in particular feature rainbows near the visual horizon.
BUT THE LANDSCAPES, OMG, THEY ARE GEORGEOUS.
I’m guessing Kirsten was cast as the leading lady to attract more of the Hollywood-following audience, but she’s never been a favourite for me. She’s too annoyingly cute and shallow in Spiderman; Kirsten finally found favour with me in Melancholia, a movie which has been recognised as Kirsten’s best performance.
Upside Down is not Kirsten’s best performance but Jim Sturgess carries the movie as Adam, the point of view character, and the other acting is good.
Bechdel test (gender roles)
Upside Down fails the Bechdel test that requires a movie to have a conversation between two named women that is not about the menz. There are a few scenes where Eden and her colleague talk without Adam present – and talk about Adam. The entire movie is about Adam and Eden’s relationship and Adam’s attempt to win Eden back so I’m kinda ok with this, although a conversation about Eden’s career aspirations could have added depth to her character and the story.
As mentioned previously, the social structure was very two-dimensional.
The African-American mentor is a bit of a cliché; this was also more of a cameo role than a featured character.
I’m not quite convinced the bursting-into-flames aspect was consistent but I could be wrong: it might just have been contact metals or specific metals from the other world that caused things to catch alight. But if this was the case, then why weren’t mechanisms set up so that Topsiders could visit Down Below without risk?
But we’re getting into really picky detail here after the fact of watching the movie.
Did I mention how much I love this movie? It’s the most creative movie I’ve seen since Inception.
2011 / UPSIDE DOWN FILMS / LES FILMS UPSIDEDOWN INC / ONYX FILMS / TRANSFILM INTL / STUDIO 37 / KINOLOGIC FILMS (UD) / JOUROR PRODUCTIONS / FRANCE 2 CINEMA