Love defies double gravity in ‘Upside Down’
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:11AM
Romeo and Juliet? They had it easy. At least when they stood up their heads pointed in the same direction.
That’s not so for the star-crossed, gravitationally-challenged young lovers in the sci-fi romance “Upside Down,” who not only live in separate worlds but also have entirely different ideas about which way is up.
You get a pretty good idea of what to expect from “Upside Down” in the opening moments, which combine cosmic visuals with what may be the longest, most confusing, scene-setting voiceover monologue ever filmed. It goes all the way back to the creation of the universe to explain the existence of a solar system containing twinned planets, each with its own opposing gravitational fields. Then it explains, after a dazzling split-screen view of the situation, that these two worlds somehow coexist face-to-face, with the Up Top planet thriving by exploiting the world Down Below. Which has led to a state of inter-planetary tension resulting in a strict rule forbidding the people of Down Below from ever entering Up Top. Though that probably wouldn’t happen too often anyway, because matter from one world is anti-matter in the other — and the two can’t come into contact for more than an hour without bursting into flame.
Now, we all know that good science fiction tries to be as plausible as possible. Unfortunately, this film isn’t, not even for a moment. So let’s think of it as semi-magical romantic fantasy instead and give Argentine writer/director Juan Solanas (“Northeast”) a free pass on that score. Along with some bonus points for making “Upside Down” consistently intriguing on the spectacle side.
Into the film’s topsy-turvy setting stray young Adam and Eden, who meet one day when the boy is out harvesting the Secret Pollen of the Pink Bees, which his aunt uses to make floating pancakes (just go with it). Child Adam climbs the highest tree on the highest peak Down Below and spots child Eden doing much the same across from him, Up Top. From there, they grow into teens (and become Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst), fall in love, steal some smooches when Adam drags Eden Down Below on a rope, and are tragically separated when a hit squad tries to kill them. Adam is shot, Eden is injured and years pass. Then Adam spots Eden on TV Up Top and decides to risk everything to see her again, concocting a Pink Bee wrinkle cream to get himself a job at the evil Trans-World corporation where she works. At which point many more complications kick in, including the afore-mentioned bursting-into-flame issue, a little problem with forgetfulness, and so forth.
The thing is, there are two ways to look at “Upside Down.” Watch it with your head and you’re likely to spend most of the time in frustration as things get more and more outlandish. Watch it with your heart, and you just might find that its ardent mood and romantic imagery — especially the key image of the two lovers floating in midair when they embrace — makes sense in a way that works just fine without logic.
It would be nice, of course, if they both worked well together, but maybe you can’t have your floating Pink Bee pancake and eat it too.