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UPSIDE DOWN (2012) review

September 30, 2013

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written by: Juan Diego Solanas

produced by: Claude Léger, Dimitri Rassam, Aton Soumache, Jonathan Vanger & Alexis Vonarb

directed by: Juan Diego Solanas

rating: PG-13 (for some violence)

runtime: 107 min.

U.S. release date: March 15, 2013 (limited)

DVD/Blu-ray release date: June 25, 2013 (currently streaming on Netflix)

 

Here we are again. The beauty and flaw in the science fiction genre. Anything can happen, anything that can be thought of or even imagined can come to life in the past, present, future, a tweaked present, anything. That’s what’s so cool about 2012’s “Upside Down”, a sci-fi flick with a ton of potential that never really amounts to much to the point it’s almost painful to watch.

A young man named Adam (Jim Sturgess) has grown up in a world with dual gravity, meaning two worlds exist next to each other, almost on top of each other. The world/planet is ruled by three scientific rules that help keep the worlds apart, Up being rich and well-to-do, Down struggling to survive in its own poverty. As a teenager growing up in Down, Adam meets Eden (Kirsten Dunst), a resident of Up. The worlds are strictly kept apart though, and the police break up one of their gravity-defying meetings. Some 10 years pass, and Adam is wallowing away working for an engineering company. One day on TV, Adam sees Eden as a representative/employee of Transworld, a corporation that rules everything. His long-lost love is there in front of him after years of mystery. He decides that somehow he must defy gravity, Transworld and the law to get his love back.

 

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A French-Canadian science fiction film from director Juan Diego Solanas (who also wrote the script), ‘Upside’ received basically no theatrical release in the United States, making $28,000 on 11 screens one weekend. I only discovered it because it was advertised On-Demand on Reelz. It sounded pretty cool, and if nothing else, freakishly original. I’m a sucker for just about any science fiction — especially when it’s….well, actually good — so I wanted to give it a chance. I did, and it wasted about 8 seconds in ruining that chance.

More specifics later in that department, but it’s just got too many flaws for its own good. The narration is inanely painful, the acting really bad to say the least, and a convoluted science background that had me questioning everything and anything that’s going on.

Long story short? I really didn’t like this movie.

I’m going to start with Mr. Sturgess because he was the one that put me in a negative mindset almost immediately. Explaining all the background, all the science, all the rules, it’s painful. An English actor, Sturgess really struggles with an American accent. More than that though, he elects to speak in this high, eternally happy voice that sounds like he’s on A. happy gas or B. stoned out of his mind. It’s loopy, goofy and painful. Anytime he goes back to the narration, I found myself frantically searching for the fast forward button. Beyond the painful voiceovers though, I’m still in the undecided camp on Sturgess. He doesn’t bring a ton of personality to the part, his character really a series of shrugs, smirks and general confusion. It would have been nice to root for the Adam character, but it just wasn’t there. A couple of cool supporting parts are Albert (Blu Mankuma) and Pablo (Nicholas Rose), his boss and co-worker (both friends) down in Down.

 

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Okay, so we’ve a basically unbearable male lead character. Come on, Kirsten Dunst, this one is on you! Save the movie! And…………..oh, it doesn’t happen.

No fault of Dunst who at least commits to her part. The script does her no favors. Her Eden suffered amnesia 10 years earlier upon being separated from Adam, and now doesn’t remember anything about their torn-apart love. Oh, wait! Yes, she does! And like a snap, she remembers everything. The chemistry just isn’t there between Sturgess and Dunst in this really forced Romeo and Juliet-esque story. And because the story wasn’t trying hard enough to be deep and existential, their names are Adam and Eden!!! No way, an Adam and Eve reference?!? It’s too painfully contrived for its own good, like a high school English student trying to be profound.

If there’s a positive, it is the visual. The abstract idea of two worlds with dual gravity is great. The visual execution works too even if there’s too much reliance on CGI to bring it to life. The camera moves back and forth because the worlds are literally on top of each other. What Adam sees in the Up world is upside down to him and vice versa. As good as the idea is though, it just cannot overcome how bad the story is. The science seems to change at will as required for the sake of the story being moved along. Just not good. A brief positive is Timothy Spall as Bob, an Up co-employee and friend of Adam’s who he meets at Transworld.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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