Upside Down (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Juan Diego Solanas and starring Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Jayne Heitmeyer, Agnieshka Wnorowska, John Maclaren, Larry Day, Don Jordan, Heidi Hawkins, Holly O’Brien, Vincent Messina, Jesse Sherman, Frank M. Ahearn, and Holden Wong.
While visually magnificent, Upside Down lacks the real punch necessary to deliver a knockout movie. I think the visual medium is an underrated component of film critiques but this movie would have been better off as a book. Within that format, more time could have been devoted to explaining the confusing “rules” of the two worlds and for fleshing out the characters. Instead we’re left with a flat, confusing heap of a tale. While the juxtaposition of the two worlds is visually interesting and hints at the dichotomy between rich and poor, the main narrative does not utilize it effectively. Instead, it tells a love story that we have all seen a hundred times. The acting is on par for the course but I feel like even Academy Award winning performances would have been wasted in this film. In the end, Upside Down is a good movie for a first date- if you are thirteen and it is literally the first date you have ever been on. Even for lovers of romantic films this one will be tough to swallow.
The entire movie hinges on the concept of the two worlds (or two planets) that have reverse gravity. So the rich people live on the top and walk upside down (right side up for them), and the poor people walk upright (which is also the right side up for them). When you see it on film, it is not so difficult to understand but unfortunately this is all explained to the audience in a very long voice over by Adam (Jim Sturgess) in the beginning of the film. It’s brutal because a voice over should never be this long and also because Sturgess is clearly faking an American accent. The director is lucky that anyone watches the rest of the film after such a mess. By actually seeing it in front of your face, there are some interesting and effective insights into the ideas of class difference but again I think the movie would work better as a book.
As Eden, Kirsten Dunst is a bit wooden at times but I would blame this more on the script. Sturgess does a good enough job as Adam. James Kidnie gives a stoic performance as Upside Down‘s bad guy, clearly typecast but he gets the job done. Timothy Spall, as bustling old Bob Boruchowitz, does the most with what he is given; it isn’t really a glamorous part but it could have been a lot worse.
Upside Down‘s story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There are dozens of plot holes and it feels like this movie was really pushing for a PG rating. There is nothing worse than watching a movie on TV only to see the most important parts left on the cutting room floor. That’s how it felt watching Upside Down. There is a movie here, somewhere, but it isn’t in the final footage.
I won’t go so far as to say this movie was doomed from the beginning but perhaps some more thought should have gone in to maneuvering through this infinitely complicated scenario. Instead we are left with a sci-fi love story that could have been but never was. I have to recommend Gattaca over Upside Down, a sci-fi movie this film was trying to be all along.