Here it is: the movie equivalent of a crazy, distracting, impossibly attractive lover. Everything about “Upside Down” is nutso preposterous but it draws you in and locks you in a warm embrace, declaring undying love and promising mystery and eternal longing forever more. If there was a way I could go on a date with “Upside Down” or at least have a few drinks at the bar with it, I would be a happy woman.
Written and directed by Juan Solanas (son of Argentinian director Fernando Solanas), “Upside Down” is ultimately old-fashioned sci-fi in the guise of a splendidly romantic love story. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Set in an unspecified future where humans live on twin planets divided by poverty and wealth, grungey nice-guy Adam (Jim Sturgess) tries to rekindle a teenage love with gorgeous Eden (Kirsten Dunst, who has never looked so radiant).
Adam faces a mountain of obstacles, like the fact that his home planet of Down Below is a miserable, crime-ridden, impoverished slum, while Eden lives on Up Top — glittering with riches and suspended just above Down Below in a way that makes Adam and the rest of the populace feel like worms. Meanwhile, get this: The two planets have opposite gravities, which means that Adam can’t visit Eden without contorting every muscle in his body. And even then, he must wear special steel weights on his calves to hold him down. Or up. Or whatever it is.
But that’s only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Citizens on the two planets are forbidden to mix anyway (Adam and Eden had met in secret when they were kids), and any attempts to do so are fiercely monitored by the baddie mega-corporation TransWorld, which functions like a security checkpoint cum immigration detention center. What’s more, Eden has had a bout of amnesia and forgotten all about Adam. Still, the lad wants to reconnect, even though it’s been 10 long years since he and Eden last met and exchanged a beautifully choreographed kiss (her reclining on a mountain rock as he leans in with his feet planted firmly on top of a jagged mountain pass, their lips meeting at the center point of the two planets’ gravities).
Admittedly, “Upside Down” has many moments that leave you mumbling “Huh?” but obviously, Solanas isn’t after plot logic — he probably wants to conduct this movie as far away from anything logical as possible. The result is a fresh, engaging, otherworldly experience that’s neither retro nor excessively smothered by CGI. Solanas is that rare filmmaker who still believes cinema should be guided by imagination, not dictated by technology. Witness the ballroom dance sequence where an enormous chandelier grows from the floor like a crystalline cabbage and dancers whirl and waltz on an elaborately frescoed ceiling.
Does “Upside Down” have the power to trump Newton’s law of gravitation? Sure feels like it — just don’t drop your apple in the theater.
For a chance to win one of five “Upside Down” magnets, visit jtimes.jp/film. The deadline is Sept. 16.