Director: Juan Solanas
Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst
2 (out of 5) Globes
There is no one on screen today more excessively earnest than Jim Sturgess, particularly when he’s suppressing his British accent for a bland American one. In the opening several minutes of the English-language European production “Upside Down,” Sturgess is forced to power through the ridiculous premise, which is the kind that probably sounded simple in theory but requires tedious explication when put in practice. Turns out Sturgess’ moony-eyed dreamer lives on a planet with “double gravity,” with one society literally living on top of the other, facing eachother like polar opposites.
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As the actor prattles on about how each side has its own gravitational pull and how should someone from one side ventures over to the other they’ll start to burn up — don’t worry: the screenplay will conveniently forget this rule once it proves troublesome — it’s easy to get distracted by Sturgess’ breathy, hilariously sincere tone. When he comes to the part about “the secret of the pink bees,” credibility evaporates.
Not that you’ll ever truly be lost in this bizarro-world, which is evidently the size of a snow globe, with storytelling about as ambitious. Sturgess’s Adam is in love not with Eve but Eden (Kirsten Dunst), a pretty girl from the world above him. Like all those on his half, he’s poor, and she, like hers, is disgustingly rich. As youths, they would meet at adjacent mountain peaks to make out and eat jam. She conveniently loses her memory, but Adam never gives up the flame and hatches a plan to reunite, using Mr. Heavyfoot boots and several tons of pluck.
The pricey “Upside Down” has a number of handsome images, one of them an all-white office (in a skyscraper that joins the two worlds) with endless rows of cubicles on both top and bottom. It’s a vision of mega-bureaucracy to rival the ones in “The Apartment,” “Brazil” and Orson Welles’ “The Trial.” Sure enough, director Juan Solanas comes back to it again and again, and again and again and again, perhaps because the rest of his film has nothing close to its power and, more important, wit. “Upside Down” boasts a slender romance storyline its makers likely mistook for simplicity when all it engenders in the viewer is the feeling of getting gypped. Our lovers never even click: Dunst looks (justifiably) bored, while Sturgess does enough overemoting for at least three star-crossed lovers.