True originality is so rare that it’s a treat to welcome a movie as completely different and provocative as Upside Down. It’s unlike anything you have ever seen.
This is a fantastical futuristic love story set in an alternate universe where two opposing worlds are pulled in opposite directions by two sets of gravity that are never explained. Down below, there’s an ordinary guy with an ordinary job named Adam (played by the talented, charming Jim Sturgess, who was the best thing in the pretentious catastrophe Cloud Atlas). Up above lives the girl of his dreams, a beauty named Eden (Kirsten Dunst). Years ago as teenagers, climbing through careful manipulation to two mountaintops in a feat thought to be somewhat miraculous, Adam and Eden managed to bridge the only solar system in existence with double gravity and fall in love. Adam changed Eden’s life when he showed her the secret place where the pink bees come from. (Don’t ask.) When the galaxy police discovered their forbidden friendship, they chased them both upside down back to their roots, resulting in a violent accident that left Eden with amnesia. But Adam has grown into a handsome young man whose sole obsession in life is to somehow find the love of his life again, unite their space units in the sky and live happily ever after. The rest of the movie falls into the delightful category of science fiction meets Walt Disney.
In a cruel take on the caste system of the next millennium, the two worlds are forbidden to meet, mingle or mix, but Adam has a scheme: Eden works for a multitasking mega-conglomerate called Trans World, a corporate power on the top half of the planet that extracts oil from the bottom half and converts it into overpriced energy nobody can afford. The only way to solve his problem, improve his life, find Eden and make worlds collide is for Adam to get a job with Trans World. Impossible. Never been done. But Adam, who lives down below among the working-class social outcasts without hope, outsmarts them all by inventing an anti-aging cream from the pink bee jelly. Trans World sends for him to steal his formula, and just when Eden’s memory begins to fade in, Adam’s luck begins to fade out. By this point, I was so reluctantly captivated by their romantic, heartfelt dilemma, I couldn’t wait to see how it all turned out.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it really lives up to its title. You have to get used to looking at everyone upside down, like wombats. Written and directed by Juan Solanas, the film’s special effects are dazzling, the set decorations and overall production design—oceans on the top and a vast landscape of skyscrapers and glittering freeways on the bottom—look opulent enough to marvel at and delicious enough to eat. Unfortunately, there are too many gaps in the narrative, and an excess of incoherent rules about the science of gravity. Still, there’s so much to absorb, you won’t have time to ask rude (but sensible) questions like “What is going on here?” and “What is this movie really about?” Walking on ceilings, with love scenes floating in space and an indestructible faith that alters the course of history, Mr. Sturgess and Ms. Dunst are a pure delight, giving Upside Down an emotional gravity out of their own allure.
Never mind what happens to the pink bee juice. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.
Running Time 103 minutes
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Juan Solanas
Starring Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst and Timothy Spall