- 2 hr 40 min
Topsy-Turvy is a 1999 film directed by Mike Leigh that follows the story of two British theatre legends, William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, as they collaborate to create their groundbreaking comic opera, The Mikado. The film features a stellar cast, including Jim Broadbent as Gilbert and Allan Corduner as Sullivan, with Dexter Fletcher, Timothy Spall, and Shirley Henderson.
Set in the late 19th century, Topsy-Turvy opens with Gilbert and Sullivan's latest operetta, Princess Ida, failing to generate interest and attracting small audiences. Gilbert is frustrated and suffers from writer's block, while Sullivan longs to break free from the constraints of light opera and compose more grandiose works. Their fortunes change when, invited by theatre impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte (Ron Cook), they embark on a trip to Japan to research Eastern culture for their new production.
During their travels, Gilbert and Sullivan witness a Japanese troupe performing a traditional art form called Kabuki, which inspires them to create The Mikado. Upon their return to London, the duo, with the help of producer Carte, assemble a talented cast, including comic actor George Grossmith (Fletcher), to bring their vision to life.
The majority of Topsy-Turvy is centered on the creation of The Mikado, and how its success was crucial in transforming Gilbert and Sullivan into legendary figures of British theatre. From the initial brainstorming sessions to the show's final dress rehearsal, Leigh expertly captures the meticulous attention to detail and hard work that went into producing the operetta.
Along the way, the film explores the interpersonal relationships of the various characters. Gilbert struggles to keep control of his prickly temper and clashes with his long-suffering wife, Kitty (Lesley Manville), who finds solace in the company of the charming Grossmith. Sullivan, meanwhile, grapples with his fleeting infatuation with a young chorus girl.
Topsy-Turvy paints a vivid picture of Victorian-era London, immersing the viewer in the colorful world of the theatre. The costumes, sets, and music are all impeccably produced, with Leigh paying close attention to historical detail. One highlight is the stunning sequence of The Mikado's climax, with the cast adorned in exquisite costumes and intricate stage designs that remain a feast for the eyes.
Overall, Topsy-Turvy is a fascinating portrait of two creative geniuses at work, with Leigh providing a window into their complex creative process. The film has been praised for its strong performances, witty dialogue, and immersive recreation of the world of Victorian theatre. Its exploration of interpersonal relationships, creative struggles, and the dynamic between art and commerce, also make it a compelling watch for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes of creating art.
Topsy-Turvy is a 1999 comedy with a runtime of 2 hours and 40 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4 and a MetaScore of 90.