After Gilbert and Sullivan's latest play is critically panned, the frustrated team threatens to disband until they are inspired to do their masterpiece, "The Mikado".


Composer Arthur Sullivan and lyricist and stage director W.S. Gilbert are at something of a crossroads. After a number of successful operettas for the D'Oyley Carte Opera Company, their latest, Princess Ida, hasn't been as well received. Pleasure-loving Sullivan, (Allan Corduner), wants to compose serious music, the rather stuffy, repressed Gilbert, (Jim Broadbent), is frustrated. And then a Japanese exposition in London gives Gilbert the inspiration for The Mikado, and an exciting new project is underway.

The best thing about Topsy Turvy is that Mike Leigh is doing something radically different – a period film, about real characters, is a change for him – he'd got into a bit of a rut with Career Girls. What makes this unusual take on Gilbert and Sullivan completely different from the previous film about them, made in 1953 with Robert Morley as Gilbert, Maurice Evans as Sullivan and Peter Finch as D'Oyley Carte, is Leigh's fascination for the details of staging the show – and Gilbert was, apparently, one of the first modern stage directors. Unfortunately, Leigh is still an indulgent filmmaker, and Topsy Turvy, despite its many charms and its superlative performances, is way, way too long. And Gilbert and Sullivan fans be warned - some of the loveliest songs of The Mikado are not in the film.

Margaret`s Comments:
Mike Leigh has surprised us all with the marked change of style and focus he delivers in Topsy Turvy. Leigh's extensive experience as a theatre director makes his choice of leading us backstage understandable. The workings of the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan after the disappointment of Princess Ida and in the lead-up to the production of The Mikado make for mildly entertaining if not rivetting viewing. But there are a couple of moments of truthfulness in amongst the theatricality that give the film a fleeting substance. The fact that Leigh went to the trouble to stage songs from various productions of Gilbert and Sullivan's repertoire seems to mean we have to see them fairly endlessly and if you're not a Gilbert and Sullivan fan this might wear thin. Most scenes are extended beyond their justifiable length leading to an overly long film with nevertheless very substantial performances from it's large cast.

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2 hours 40 min
Wed, 06/09/2010 - 11