Share This Page

REVIEW: 'Upside Down': Attractive visuals may not have enough pull

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:24 p.m.
Millennium Entertainment
Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess in 'Upside Down'

The sci-fi love story “Upside Down” features a Romeo and Juliet separated not by a family feud, but by gravity.

Adam (Jim Sturgess) lives on a planet that has a twin — a neighboring world with an equal-and-opposite gravitational pull. Poetically, if rather preposterously, the two orbs are just close enough so that mountains on the surface of each world almost brush against each other. This is how Adam meets Eden (Kirsten Dunst), whom he discovers hanging upside down one day, like a pretty, blond bat.

His “up” is her “down,” and vice versa. And because of a fluke of physics — in which all matter must obey the gravity of the world it came from — they can never be together. Like a magnet to steel, Adam is forever tethered to his home, a slumlike wasteland, and Eden to hers, a land of plenty.

It's a clever idea, if not a unique one. But in “Upside Down,” writer-director Juan Solanas takes the gimmick about as far as it can go, rendering the metaphor of longing and separation in effective, and richly visual, terms.

If anything, however, he goes too far.

Soon, Adam is visiting Eden in her world, thanks to the use of counterweights. Known as “inverse matter,” any material from one world — such as a metal bar — can be used to offset the gravitational pull of the other world. The problem is that after about an hour of contact between matter and inverse matter, the counterweights burst into flames, making Cinderella's coach turning into a pumpkin look like nothing.

Strict laws also prohibit the intermixing of people between worlds.

Worst of all, though, Eden has developed amnesia, and doesn't know Adam from, well, Adam.

That's more than enough plot for one movie. But Solanas also introduces a mysterious pink bee pollen, produced by insects that feed on flowers from both worlds. Because of its anti-gravitational properties, Adam begins to experiment on it as an anti-aging cream, going to work for the evil corporation that keeps his people in poverty, and Eden's in wealth.

That love story works beautifully, because the metaphor works. There are some really pretty special effects, too, such as rain that falls up. And the cinematography, which renders everything in a cool, blue pallor, is simply gorgeous.

But the rest of the movie ultimately gets weighed down by its own ponderous, and increasingly contradictory, logic.

“Upside Down” paints a pretty picture, as long as you don't think about it too much.

Michael O'Sullivan is a movie critic for The Washington Post.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.