Upside Down (2012)

(Video on Demand, July 2013) As a seasoned Science Fiction fan, I rarely have trouble with suspension of disbelief: if a film has an outrageous premise, I’m usually more than willing to grant it immunity from nitpicking.  But I have my limits, and Upside Down reached them in about thirty seconds with a triad of absurdly made-up rules about its invented universe.  I’m good with the idea of dual worlds facing themselves; I’m even willing to allow that objects from one world can only gravitate to that world.  But having stuff from opposite worlds catch on fire when held too long against each other?  That’s arbitrary to the point of ludicrousness, and things don’t improve once the film starts developing the world it sketches with its three opening statements: We’re supposed to believe in socioeconomic exploitation of one world by another when matter from one world can’t even enter in contact with the other one. (Hint: political allegory doesn’t work if the underlying metaphor doesn’t.)  The longer and the more detailed Upside Down goes on, the more ludicrous it becomes.  Now, a reasonable objection to this may be that the film is supposed to be a fable about two ill-fated lovers, and that’s true.  The problem is that the story itself is so well-worn and bare-bones as to leave plenty of time for world-building contemplation, with terrible results: the film feels artificial to a degree that even its spectacular visuals can’t overcome, and all of its wit in the presentation of its worlds can’t really compensate for the inanity of its premise.  Writer/director Juan Solanas has a good eye for arresting images, but the whole justification for them just isn’t satisfying.  It doesn’t help that Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess are blander-than-bland as the romantic leads.  As much as I’d like to be kind about a Franco-Canadian film shot in Montréal (and even featuring remarkable local actors such as Holly O’Brien), there isn’t enough to Upside Down to earn more than a recommendation based on pure visuals.  The story isn’t there, and the premise simply doesn’t work.

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