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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.95%
Average: 11.48%
Pretty Bad: 11.48%
Total Crap: 26.23%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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by Stephen Groenewegen

2 stars

Librettist Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) has become so comfortable churning out operattas in his world of “topsy-turvydom”, that frustrated composer Sullivan (Allan Corduner) breaks off their collaboration. If Gilbert ever accepted the criticism levelled at the sameness of his writing, it’s not apparent from Mike Leigh’s screenplay for Topsy-Turvy.

Although set in his familiar London, it’s Leigh’s first non-contemporary film, and he reminds us endlessly. Titles announce the year last century, and the film grinds to a
halt for an irrelevant discussion of the politics of the day, or to display memorabilia from the period - a newly invented telephone, the ball-point pen.

Topsy-Turvy is about two sides of the creative process: writing and performing. The first half follows the rift between Gilbert and Sullivan: Sullivan’s sojourn in France to begin work on a serious opera (which a smug closing title informs us could never
better his work with Gilbert); Gilbert’s visit to a Japanese exhibition in London which inspires The Mikado; Sullivan’s apparent enthusiasm for it on his return, and the renewal of their professional relationship. The second half is taken up with the workings of the D’Oyly Carte company as they rehearse The Mikado in anticipation of opening night.

Unfortunately, there isn’t sufficient connection between the two halves. On the evidence here, The Mikado (despite its exotic pseudo-Japanese setting) wasn’t much different to the other topsy-turvy operettas, so it’s hard to fathom why Sullivan
acquiesces so easily. Leigh’s idea of fleshing out the performers of the company is to allot each a recognisable flaw - alcoholism, drug addiction, vanity. Thus he transforms unlikeable one dimensional characters into unlikeable two dimensional characters; he doesn’t make them human. The stuffy, pompous Gilbert, who won’t even soften for his young wife (Lesley Manville) is hard to bear, and the scenes with his various family members are too brief and disjointed to flesh out his character.

A couple of the rehearsal scenes demonstrate Leigh’s trademark skill with actors and improvisation, and the development of the “Three Little Maids” song in rehearsal was fascinating. But too often, Leigh overindulges in the historical minutiae. Topsy-Turvy is all in the details; which wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the movie wasn’t missing.

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originally posted: 05/09/00 21:14:28
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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

4/06/07 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
8/19/05 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
7/07/03 Jack Sommersby Damn, how I hate this studied, overly deliberate bore. 1 stars
12/10/01 Andrew Carden Pittifully Boring and Dull Rehash Of Gilbert and Sullivan Songs. 1 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Not bad .Slightly to long . 4 stars
6/14/01 Poxont Perfectly and accurately researched, directed, acted! 5 stars
3/25/01 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
2/27/00 connie thompson Loved it. A truly wonderful film - Best of the Year 5 stars
2/16/00 Gjoko Ruzio-Saban Gilbert & Sullivan OK 5 stars
2/13/00 "Persnickety "Jenn cute, very well played, a must see for anyone looking for a good film! 5 stars
2/12/00 Skye Chapman a great movie. lots of fun. and i hate gilbert and sullivan 5 stars
2/08/00 Ron If they would let me cut about 50 minutes of shit I think it would then be a great film. 4 stars
1/31/00 F RICHARDS I LIKED IT 5 stars
1/21/00 Heather Loved it, although it could have done with some humor 5 stars
1/21/00 Spetters A wonderful surprise! 4 stars
12/25/99 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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