‘Upside Down’ falls victim to artistic gravity
It’s the sci-fi version of “Romeo and Juliet”: “Upside Down” tells the topsy-turvy story of two youths on closely adjoining planets, each with its own inverse gravity, so they’re veritable mirror images of one another.
As in Shakespeare’s tale, it’s absolutely forbidden for the denizens of the “poor” planet to venture into the “rich” orb’s sphere—but, love can’t be held down by such constricting considerations as laws and gravity, so this Romeo (Jim Sturgess) finds a way to romance his Juliet (Kirsten Dunst), contra mundum!
Of course, there’s the devil to pay, but when they’re in love, even the darkest forces can’t keep determined lovers apart—or athwart—for long!
Trouble is, to tell its fantasticating tale, the film fights not just against gravity, but also against credibility and logic, and its fictive universe consequently implodes in a quash of questions that have no sufficiently clarificatory answers.
The biggest bone of contention is the far-out way that our young Romeo of tomorrow thinks up to break into his upside-down inamorata’s forbidden world: He invents a magical youthening cream based on rare bee pollen and honey that is so amazing that the other planet’s governing executives get very interested in further developing and marketing it. —Huh?!
Why, of all of the possible plot twists at hand, do the movie’s makers settle for this silly fiction? But, the leaden fact is that they do, so the weird choice negatively affects what happens right after it’s made.
It’s a real pity, because the film has a lot going for it, including its alternately stark and lovely visualizations, depending on which planet is being depicted. Sturgess also acts up a breathlessly perfervid storm.
For her part, Dunst comes across as older and decidedly less ga-ga. So there’s a disconnect there—but, Sturgess’ ardent portrayal minimizes its ability to distract.
Fact is, despite Dunst’s popularity, it’s Sturgess who plays the movie’s key protagonist, since he’s the one who literally moves heaven and earth to get to his lady-love.
Dunst’s character is much less lovelorn, since she’s been depicted as an amnesiac after their initial encounters, and thus can’t even remember her alien swain, who lives only to be reunited with her, against all odds—and gravity, to boot!
One wonders why the bigger star, Dunst, agreed to play filmic second fiddle to Sturgess, but she magnanimously does so, and he benefits from it, because her stellar partnering has given the younger actor a chance to prove his thespic mettle in not just a co-starring role, but as a key protagonist, as well.
Despite its leads’ best efforts, however, the film can’t get over its scripting implausibilities, and ends up a victim of artistic gravity—or lack of it, in more ways than one!
But, “Upside Down” is still viewable for its detailed depiction of two opposite or apposite planets that are finally united by the incandescent love of two lovers who refuse to live and love apart!
—Finally, and most insistently, some viewers want to know: Where can they purchase that astoundingly transformative youthening cream that makes a mature woman look as young and lovely as her granddaughter in only a few seconds?!
(Answer: At the sci-fi cineplex nearest you!)