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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.95%
Just Average: 11.48%
Pretty Crappy: 11.48%
Sucks: 26.23%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"Self-indulgent refuse from egocentric Leigh."
1 stars

If you take "Cradle Will Rock," extend its running time, extend the stiff feeling, extend the one-dimensionality, add on ego, and add on more praise, you will find yourself somewhere in the vicinity of "Topsy-Turvy." Set now in the 1800s, "Topsy-Turvy" is an ego-feeding movie for director Mike Leigh, whose new movie serves to entertain no one but himself. This indulgence is a prime example of what happens when you make a film only for yourself.

The story concerns famous playwright and composers Gilbert (Alan Corduner) and Sullivan (Jim Broadbent). Gilbert composes while Sullivan writes, and when their most recent piece, "Princess Ida" doesn't fare well with press nor audience, Gilbert wants to split to do more serious work, but cannot because he's contractually obligated for one more teaming (why, oh why didn't they let him go?). Things continually go downhill for Gilbert when Sullivan's new piece goes back in reversion to his "topsy-turvical" mindset, where like himself, something starts out high and well off, but when it comes upon "topsy-turvidom," it reverts into something much lesser. Without Gilbert's approval of the new opera, Sullivan's wife "Kitty" (Lesley Manville) takes him to a Japanese exhibition. She indulges herself in the intrigued of the presentation while Sullivan merely observes. It isn't until later that it hits him --and really does almost hit him, as a souvenir
samurai sword almost falls on him-- to write a Japanese-orientated operetta entitled "The Mikado."

Gilbert goes for the idea, and so begins the process of casting, rehearsals, writes, rewrites, etc., so on and so forth. All this plot so far has taken us to about the 90-minute mark of a 160-minute movie! It is simply excruciating to think that a mere paragraph can summarize the whole beginning development as opposed to the suffering it took to get there by having to sit through it. That may come across as seeming as though there was a lot of screen time where nothing was developing --and that's exactly the case. There was no reason, nor excuse for this self-indulgent wallow in self-appreciation by Leigh. Even by educational standards, "Topsy-Turvy" was never more than an exterminating bore. People might be interested in a bio-epic of Gilbert and Sullivan, but certainly not the sidenotes they themselves wouldn't be interested in reliving. There were only minute sequences that were of any interest, and most of those were when actual pieces of their plays were being performed. The problem with that is, if we wanted to see the play, we would do that at a production of the play, not a movie. And notice that it is Gilbert and Sullivan's work, not Mike Leigh's. The only other
source of interest that "Topsy-Turvy" gives off is an exceptional performance by Alan Corduner as Gilbert. His characterization was memorable and well championed. His mannerisms seemed very prepared to match the real thing without seeming planned. It was a real performance. But all the rest of the "shows" are just that --shows, and never more. The actors come off fake, directed, and so over-the-top that it makes "Cradle Will Rock" seem like exemplary filmmaking.

However, the most frustrating thing of all is all the praise it has as of so far received --most of it being from the New York Film Critics Circle. Being such an influential group as they are, it's widely opening doors for the movie, especially the one leading directly into Oscar consideration. That on itself is going to send a ripple effect, knocking deserving films like "The Straight Story," "Boys Don't Cry" and "Being John Malkovich" out of the light. At this point, it would be a miracle if "Topsy-Turvy" was snubbed.

Maybe because of Leigh's success and praise for "Secrets and Lies," a film that actually deserved it, it went to his head
and filled it up with false pretenses and ideas. Listen to the words he uses in his dialogued script. The prolixity of the
dialogue is phony and pretentious, and it would make the most scholarly English major blush. Leigh makes well spoken screenwriters like Whit Stillman and David Mamet look really ahead of the game, but puts a dark cloud over the erudition
of their work; he makes big words seem bad when really they aren't. Leigh comes off so extremely full of himself in a cloud of hubris so thick that Richard Farnsworth could have gotten in an accident riding on that John Deere lawnmower.

"Topsy-Turvy" is a horrid, frightfully unpleasant piece of movie making that deserves to be dejected into Movie Limbo for eternity while we recover from this horrible, offensive dreck.

Final Verdict: D-

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1987&reviewer=172
originally posted: 01/19/00 14:28:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival For more in the 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/05/07 Ezzthetic How on earth this moron got himself registered on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me. 5 stars
11/19/06 Ionicera a little too drawn out 4 stars
8/16/06 anthonyuk if this film was a heart monitor it would have flatlined! boredom has never been so painful 1 stars
8/18/05 Jeanne I loved this, and I don't even like G&S. Shirley Henderson is awesome! 4 stars
2/05/05 axe at turns fun and dull--Leigh gives each a whirl. 3 stars
11/10/04 Steve Denney Who the fuck are these wankers rating this movie as crap? Don't you understand pathos, iron 4 stars
7/06/03 Jack Sommersby Damn, how I hate this studied, overly deliberate bore. 1 stars
12/09/01 Andrew Carden Pittifully Boring and Dull Rehash Of Gilbert and Sullivan Songs. 1 stars
7/27/01 Henry Ginsberg Not bad .Slightly to long . 4 stars
6/13/01 Poxont Perfectly and accurately researched, directed, acted! 5 stars
3/24/01 jim Director nailed the personal lives of these people. Really did his reaearch 5 stars
2/11/01 R.W. Welch Remarkable historic re-creation, but needed tighter editing and better continuity. 4 stars
8/08/00 Mic Cut it a bit (from performance of Mikado) and it would be even better. 4 stars
6/27/00 Purple Monster Only an illiterate twerp would bag this movie !!!! 5 stars
2/26/00 connie thompson Loved it. A truly wonderful film - Best of the Year 5 stars
2/15/00 Gjoko Ruzio-Saban Gilbert & Sullivan OK 5 stars
2/12/00 "Persnickety "Jenn cute, very well played, a must see for anyone looking for a good film! 5 stars
2/11/00 Skye Chapman a great movie. lots of fun. and i hate gilbert and sullivan 5 stars
2/07/00 Ron If they would let me cut about 50 minutes of shit I think it would then be a great film. 4 stars
1/30/00 F RICHARDS I LIKED IT 5 stars
1/21/00 Heather Loved it, although it could have done with some humor 5 stars
1/20/00 Spetters A wonderful surprise! 4 stars
12/24/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah A huge bore, and unrelentlessly pointless, lacking a backbone. Overlong too! 1 stars
12/19/99 cinemel Long and mostly boring. 2 stars
12/19/99 Mr Showbiz Leigh's historical drama is cause for celebration amongst Gilbert & Sullivan fans. 5 stars
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  17-Dec-1999 (R)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2011



Directed by
  Mike Leigh

Written by
  Mike Leigh

  Alison Steadman
  Jim Broadbent
  Lesley Manville
  Allan Corduner

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