Topsy-Turvy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Topsy-Turvy Reviews

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August 26, 2017
It's certainly a bizarre spectacle that's feuded by the realist direction of Mike Leigh and exercises an overblown Britishness which takes over the whole film. Granted, this is a British film about Victorian Britain but the stylistic direction Leigh takes may alienate viewers as it aims for a niche audience who probably already have some previous knowledge of 'The Mikado' and Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Nevertheless, Topsy-Turvy doesn't fail in its ambitions and carries through its 2 1/2 hour run time with good humour and glorious music. It's certainly not for everyone but for those who want something a bit more "high brow", this is rather scrumptious!

November 13, 2016
Full of life and humor, "Topsy-Turvy" is a bouncy backstage look at the creation of a legendary 19th century operetta.
November 5, 2016
The story of Gilbert & Sullivan and the inspiration behind The Mikado!!
Super Reviewer
½ March 7, 2016
The narrow focus is quite effective as looking at the creation of "The Mikado" gives a lot of insight into not just Gilbert and Sullivan's creative process but how theatre as a whole functioned in the late 19th century. I really wish Leigh would make more bio-pics/period pieces, between this and "Mr. Turner" he's proven himself to be infinitely more adept at the formula than a lot of other filmmakers.
July 4, 2015
Incredibly boring.

Set in the 1880s, the story of how, during a creative dry spell, the partnership of the legendary musical/theatrical writers Gilbert and Sullivan almost dissolves, before they turn it all around and write the Mikado.

Maybe you have to be into theatre, and musicals in particular, and/or enjoy a history piece on Gilbert and Sullivan, but the movie is very uninteresting. Moves at a snail's pace, goes for 2 1/2 hours, and nothing really happens. What does happen, you know already, from the provided synopsis.

Director Mike Leigh could at least have made it shorter, rather than an endurance test.
½ May 5, 2015
It looks gorgeous, sounds adequate, brushes over the historical details lightly, and gives nothing back at the end of two-and-a-half hours. If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, this will shed no new light on their lives or The Mikado.
½ November 16, 2014
Great music. A little overlong
May 11, 2014
I'm surprised it took me so long to review this, as I am a lifelong G&S fan who discovered them and their fairy tale operas when I was just 13. This movie was like a dream come true for me as I felt like I'd known all the characters for many years, and I was watching old friends. The storytelling was astonishingly accurate for Hollywood; factual and enormously entertaining. Mike Leigh managed to capture the magic of Gilbert & Sullivan's work and the spell of enchantment it held over even the people who performed it. And yet, as the title suggests, nothing is quite what it seems to be. The genial Sullivan is a gambling, womanizing prima donna, unhappy with the very music he's gotten rich from.. The brilliant Gilbert is plagued by a fear of not pleasing anyone. The star of their company uses drugs, the leading lady has a drinking problem, and others have their own insecurities--and yet in spite of it all, they created a world of sheer magic. It is one of those films I can watch over and over and never get tired of.
½ September 10, 2013
Not everyone's cup of tea.
July 11, 2013
A tribute to anyone who ever picked up a score, a pen, a paintbrush or a grease pencil - or a movie camera.
½ May 19, 2013
Upon watching one of Leigh's films for the first time, one can hear the unspoken ideas pronounced perfectly loud and eloquently, through the veins beneath the surface of the skin - in every performance, in every moment, in every cut. We are seduced by it all, but first and foremost, by the vision of the master, unforced and still untamed.
April 5, 2013
" . . .Three little MAIDS . . . from school." Too long for a single night's viewing but highly entertaining if you love watching best scenes from The Mikado in the glory of their original staging. Watch it for no other reason than the costumes, wallpaper, and lush Victorian furnishings. It may disappoint some viewers that the film glosses over Arthur Sullivan's homosexuality.
February 21, 2013
just some great acting but very long
February 8, 2013
«Three little maids from school are we!» A delightful look at one of the most famous stage world's team: Gilbert & Sullivan.
February 6, 2013
This film is a light-hearted, delightful and rather charming comedy biopic of a small part of the lives and careers of the famous duo, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It tells of their fall after their opera 'Princess Ida' and their eventual rise to fame again with their next project 'The Mikado', a tale set in Japan with a British libretto. This Academy-Award winning film, which won for Best Makeup and Best Costume Design, is well-acted and seemingly lavish and colourful. The pace was a tad bit slow but the British humour present are enough to amuse and keep me engaged. The parts which catch my attention the most are the scenes from the duo's operas, which were so masterfully staged and well-choreographed. The highlights for me are 'Three Little Maids from School' and the grande finale of the comic opera, as well as 'The Moon and I'. Overall, a splendid little amusing piece of entertainment.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
½ January 3, 2013
This is a great film. Mike Leigh ranks among the best of great filmmakers. Topsy-Turvy is easily one of his best most cherished pictures. It's a theater picture but it's more then a theater picture. Leigh puts all his passions into this since he too was a theater director. I really got to see an inside glimpse of the hardwork and dedication the men and women endure in order to conquer a great night. The sets and colors, makeup, and cinematography is a sight too seem some may find this a little bit too long due to the length but I couldn't help but be enjoyed by one of the finest masters at work.
½ November 15, 2012
Mike Leigh's most lavish production, as well as his most entertaining. Great movie.
½ July 18, 2012
Only Mike Leigh could make this film.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2012
It's a delightful tale on the early days of Broadbent and Sullivan, and I say it like that, because I've gotten used to Jim Broadbent playing Jim Broadbent too blasted much nowadays. Well, I suppose that when you become an older English person with a silly voice, you can't help but play an older English person with a silly voice (It's the Midget Principle; sorry about the name), though before he got stuck in that mode, he did what he did well and, well, he still does what he does well, it's just that noways, what he does do so well is play the same part. Well, it's not like the other Jim he could be was gonna be Jim from a trailer park in the middle of Geneva, Alabama (Hey, not "all" of Alabama is rid of rednecks yet), because the boy was always too blasted British, though not quite as British as the late producer on this film, Mr. Simon Channing-Williams. Wow, he was either a Colin or a Nigel away from just being a giant set of crooked teeth sitting on top a cup of tea, and I'd imagine that he looked like that when he angrily beared his teeth upon finding out how much this film made at the box office after he pumped £10 million into it. Usually, I would say that the film was financially doomed once it got slapped with the dreaded limited release deal, but it was pretty much done for once it got Mike Leigh attached, because he's done plenty of films and this about the only one that people remember, and even then, just try to find more than three people who's not a critic who knows what in the world this is. That's a shame, because if more Mike Leigh films like this, then I might need to check them out, not because this film is really good, but because I'm wondering if he has any films in which the slowness actually works, for although this film is an undeniably enjoyable one, it's not the easiest of watches.

The critical consensus is that this film is "grandly" and "thoroughly" entertaining, and quite frankly, that should tell you that the majority of film critics must have a great appreciation for this film, being that they've got to be old enough to have actually attended a Gilbert and Sullivan production, which isn't to say that this film is all that dull, though it isn't terribly far off, as it is some of that good old fashion dry "entertainment". The film is almost dizzyingly British, right down to having that bread-rusk dryness that cuts deep down to the atmosphere, from which the dryness cuts much lively juice in the process, leaving the film often limp in tone, a situation made stingier by a story structure that's all too often just as limp. While the subject matter is intriguing, there's not a whole lot of meat or sweep to it, thus it is debatable whether or not it warrant a 160-minute runtime, and this film's story structures stands as strong evidence against the idea that this subject matter can comfortably fit such a sprawling runtime, as there's only so much punch to it, and with quite a bit of repetition, redundance and overall excessive padding, much of this film slows to a crawl, limping in its progression and often losing you along the way. I don't really feel so much like saying that the film loses steam, as it leaves the gate lacking in oomph and goes on to stay the course, picking up quite a bit in some spots, though not quite enough to go fully redeemed, and after a while, steam doesn't so much continue to die down as much as you grow more and more aware of much steam is limited. That right there is the mark of an underwhelming final product, and this film is exactly that, but just barely. The film doesn't go too many places, yet when it gets to where it wants to go, it delivers quite well, and when it's not hitting such high points, it's kept going by a variety of strengths. That's sadly not enough to carry the film past kind of dull, yet it is more than enough to make it an enjoyable watch, especially if you're a fan of fine production pieces.

For set and costume production in 1999, this film cost quite the pretty penny, and while it didn't make up for that financially, it certainly found itself rewarded in Oscar gold, and justly so, as the production designs and art direction is brilliantly elaborate and transportingly subtle, planting you back into England's Victorian era while really capturing the livliness of Gilbert and Sullivan's world with much dazzling flashiness. What further breathes life into this era is Mike Leigh's script, which is may be a structural mess, but has its fair share of razor-sharp moments, while keeping consistent in portraying the era and its people in a fashion that is charmingly authentic, yet not overbearingly so, feeling believable and comforting, with mostly sharp humor enhancing such a feel. Sure, not all bits of humor hit home, and there is the occasional one that just plain falls flat on its face, yet more often than not, it wins you over with cleverness, wit and, here and there, even a bit of snap that feels very down-to-earth, yet slick enough to keep you charmed, if not chuckling. Still, the film wouldn't be as lively as it is without the the intense charm of the talent-riddled cast of charismas. Now, the film is being touted by a couple of people as a drama, when really, this film is about as much the drama that people say it is as it is the consistently fun film that people say it is, so don't expect a whole lot of dramatic material to fall upon our performers for them to carry you past the slowness, but expect them to make up for that with across-the-board colorful and distinct charisma so sharp, that you'd be hard pressed to not find these characters memorable. Yes, the film, while quite flawed, has much in the way of strengths, yet everything leads back to one certain aspect that really carries this film. Ladies and gentlemen, if nothing else, the film is thoroughly charming in its wit, innocence and memorability, and while its being just so slow and overlong keeps it from really punching, it remains not simply enjoyable, but rather worth remembering, because for every fault - of course, there are many -, there is a winning strength to charm and transport you into this lively world, and leave you to have a decent time while doing so.

Overall, the film isn't quite the thoroughly entertaining piece many tout it to be, as it goes tainted by a consistently dry aura that, alongside reptition, redundance and a profound lack of oomph, really emphasizes the lack of juice in this subject matter and the gratuitousness of its length, rendering the final product somewhat dull, often disengaging and ultimately underwhelming, yet still worth watching, not just because of the brilliantly intricate, lively and all around very well-done production designs and art direction, but also because of the witty script, complimented by mostly sharp humor, and really brought to life by a slew of colorful, memorable and immensely charismatic performers, who stand as one of the biggest supplements to the consistent and intense charm that ultimately leaves "Topsy-Turvy" to stand as an enjoyable and sometimes even somewhat intriguing study on the early years of Gilbert and Sullivan, even if it itself gets to be a bit of a topsy-turvy watch.

2.5/5 - Fair
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