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January 26, 2013 at 9:36 am #269074
Jane Campion’s (“The Piano”) new six-hour miniseries, “Top of the Lake,” premiered at Sundance Festival to raves. It’s due on the SUNDANCE CHANNEL in March. This could also be a possible trifecta of awards for Elisabeth Moss in the coming year, so yay for that (since she looks to be a lost cause for “Mad Men,” unfortunately).
Some reviews are surfacing, so I’ll post them soon.January 26, 2013 at 9:47 am #269076
Sun., Jan. 20, 2013, 3:00pm PT
Top of the Lake
See-Saw Films production in association with Screen Australia, Screen NSW and
Fulcrum Media Finance for BBC, UKTV, the Sundance Channel. Produced by Philippa
Campbell. Executive producers, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Jane Campion.
Directed by Jane Campion, Garth Davis. Screenplay, Campion, Gerard Lee.
Griffin – Elisabeth Moss
Parker – David Wenham
Mitcham – Peter Mullan
– Thomas M. Wright
– Holly Hunter
disappearance of a pregnant preteen exposes the raw wounds at the heart of an
isolated southern New Zealand community in the absorbing and richly atmospheric
“Top of the Lake.” Centered around Elisabeth Moss’ excellent
performance as a detective for whom the case uncovers disturbing echoes of her
own troubled history, this multistranded crime saga from writer-director Jane
Campion and co-creator Gerard Lee is satisfyingly novelistic in scope and dense
in detail. Yet it also boasts something more, a singular and provocative
strangeness that lingers like a chill after the questions of who-dun-what have
been laid to rest.
berths in Park City and Berlin will precede a distinguished smallscreen life
for the Sundance Channel miniseries, which begins airing March 18. The
six-hour, seven-part production (reviewed from a six-episode version prior to
its festival bows) should prove an enticing proposition for fans of
investigative dramas in the vein of “Twin Peaks” and “The
Killing,” even though the yarn’s less procedural-oriented nature and
primary focus on a rape case provide early clues that Campion and Co. are
treading different thematic territory here. But by far the material’s most
distinctive element is its setting, a wooded region of stunning natural beauty
and surpassing human ugliness that lends a uniquely bleak and bitter tang to
this well-worn genre format.
helming duties with Aussie newcomer Garth Davis, Campion has delivered her
first work set and shot in her native New Zealand since “The Piano”
20 years ago. Fittingly, it marks a reunion of sorts with that film’s star,
Holly Hunter, cast here as GJ, an enigmatic, silver-haired guru who has come to
the town of Laketop to open a camp for abused and/or abandoned women.
Unfortunately, the camp has been built on a piece of land—the ironically named
Paradise—that has long been eyed by local drug lord Matt Mitcham (a superb
Peter Mullan), who seems to own everyone and everything in town.
also seems to have fathered half the local population; the youngest of his
offspring is 12-year-old Tui (Jacqueline Joe), his daughter by his third
(ex-)wife, a Thai immigrant. One frigid morning, Tui is seen wandering into the
titular lake, as though in a trance; a subsequent medical examination reveals
she’s five months pregnant, though she won’t disclose who the father is. The
determined but relatively inexperienced Det. Robin Griffin (Moss) is called in
to lead the statutory-rape investigation, although she soon finds herself
looking into a possible kidnapping-murder scenario when Tui suddenly goes
the course of the six-hour running time, the story abounds in the requisite
twists and complications: The lake coughs up the body of a local businessman,
while suspicion falls on a hermit who turns out to be a convicted sex offender.
But these developments are doled out at a measured clip, and the filmmakers
seem less interested in sustaining forward momentum than in painting a vivid
panorama of this broken community, a town cloaked in a dark and vaguely
the hooligans (Jay Ryan, Kip Chapman) who carry out Mitcham’s bidding to the
sad-sack women who gather at GJ’s camp, there’s a pervasive sense of human
lives either wasted or forced into familiar and depressing patterns. The
wildness of the surroundings informs the wildness of the characters: Parents
and children are forever at odds, and acts of violence and violation are
distressingly commonplace, to the point where even Mitcham reacts to the news
of Tui’s ordeal not with outrage, but with a cynical roll of the eye (“She’s
a slut, like her dad was a slut!”).
its narrative breadth, “Top of the Lake” is first and foremost
Robin’s story. As the detective rekindles a romance with another Mitcham son
(Thomas M. Wright) while flirting erratically with her superior officer (David
Wenham), she finds her personal life bumping up against her investigation to a
near-ludicrous degree. Much of the third hour is devoted to exploring Robin’s
past traumas as a teenager, and while the idea that she sees a younger version
of herself in Tui represents perhaps the tale’s most conventional conceit, it
supplies a potent emotional fulcrum that pushes the drama into its moving,
startling if not always plausible final hours.
a long way from “Mad Men,” brings a gripping combination of pluck,
vulnerability and intense anger to the complicated role of a woman who fights
for every inch of ground and at one point drives a broken bottle into a man’s
chest. Campion’s films have long gone against the grain with their strong,
embattled distaff protagonists and daring portrayals of female sexuality, and
if “Top of the Lake” isn’t in quite the same neighborhood as “In
the Cut,” it nonetheless calls on Moss and others to bare themselves
physically and emotionally in a story located at the juncture of sex and
other commanding turn here comes from Mullan, playing the unkempt Mitcham as a
rough-mannered scoundrel who is not without a certain gruff, randy charm. Other
bright spots in the excellent ensemble include Robyn Nevin, tough and sensible
as Robin’s cancer-stricken mother; Joe, who invests Tui with a fiery refusal to
be victimized; and Hunter, making the most of dialogue that basically consists
of a string of gnomic pronouncements.
Arkapaw’s lensing of this unspoiled and unruly landscape is one of the
production’s chief pleasures, and composer Mark Bradshaw supports the action
with a melancholy score that sounds entirely endemic to the setting.
(color, HD), Adam Arkapaw; editors, Alexandre de Franceschi, Scott Gray; music,
Mark Bradshaw; production designer, Fiona Crombie; art director, Ken Turner;
costume designer, Emily Seresin; sound, Richard Flynn; sound
designers/re-recording mixers, Tony Vaccher, John Dennison; stunt coordinator,
Rodney Cook; line producer, Trishia Downie; assistant director, Phil Jones;
casting, Kirsty McGregor, Tina Cleary. Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, Calif., Jan.
14-16, 2013 (Episodes 1-4), and Park City, Utah, Jan. 20, 2013 (Episodes 5-6).
(In Sundance Film Festival—Premieres; Berlin Film Festival — Berlinale
Special.) Running time: 353 MIN.
Jay Ryan, Kip Chapman, Jacqueline Joe, Robyn Malcolm, Genevieve Lemon, Georgi
Kay, Skye Wansey, Alison Bruce, Sarah Valentine, Robyn Nevin, Calvin Tuteao,
Lucy Lawless, Darren Gilshenan, Luke Buchanan, Mirrah Foulkes, Jacek Koman,
January 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm #269077
I’m very excited for this one and I’m hoping that Moss will receive as many accolades as she can be able to!January 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm #269078
Jane Campion’s “The Killing”? Wonder if Moss does accent work in this.March 16, 2013 at 8:12 am #269079
Entertainment Weekly’s review:
Top of the Lake (2013)
Reviewed by Karen Valby | Mar 13, 2013
Details: Start Date: Mar 18, 2013; Genre: Drama; With: Holly Hunter and Elisabeth Moss; Network: Sundance Channel
In the opening of Top of the Lake, a terrifically moody miniseries from The Piano director Jane Campion, we see a fully clothed 12-year-old girl walk up to her neck in a New Zealand lake. From that bracing first plunge, this is heady, dark material: The child is five months pregnant, and she’s not giving up the father.
Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss plays a Sydney detective who grew up in the backwater town and wants justice for the girl, who goes missing by the end of episode 1. Moss — steely and vulnerable, at home in her accent and jeans-and-boots detective wear — is astoundingly good. Her Robin, bearing deep childhood scars from this pockmark of a drug- and gun-addled community, would partner nicely with The Silence of the Lambs‘ Clarice Starling.
It’s trite to call the seven-part series a murder mystery, though there is a brutally offhand murder in the premiere. Campion has created something more deeply weird, starting by putting her Piano star Holly Hunter in men’s chinos and a long sheath of white hair to play the enlightened leader of a women’s support group. (This sounds potentially awful, but go with it — Hunter is marvelous and offers needed humor.) Then there’s the ferocious War Horse star Peter Mullan, who portrays the missing girl’s father and town drug overlord with festering rage and startling wit. The mystery of just what happened to the child unspools almost languidly against the backdrop of wild and gorgeous New Zealand country. The ugliness of humans amid such beauty resounds like a cold slap.
Grade: A-March 18, 2013 at 10:11 am #269080
**** review from Robert Bianco:March 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm #269081
21 critics and 84 at Metacritic. Best reviewed project of Campion since The Piano… WOW!
New York Post: ”This six-part series is so layered and unexpected that
nothing follows a tried-and-true formula…. This is great TV”.
– San Francisco Chonicle: ”Top of the Lake is Jane Campion and her cast at the top of their game. ”
– USA Today: ”Top of the Lake is rivetingly odd, almost oppressively atmospheric and thoroughly entrancing.”
People Weekly: ”This haunting New Zealand miniseries boasts a strong,
tense performance from Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as a detective, but it’s
very much the work of director Jane Campion.”
The Hollywood Reporter: ”Top of the Lake presents a dire portrait of
the human condition, very much in line with many of the other most
popular crime-and-family-driven television series of recent years. It’s
also right up there with the best of them.”
All these publications gave the maximum grade for the miniseries. Can I begin to believe in Moss winning for this role? And Campion beating Soderbergh? lolMarch 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm #269082
9:00 PM ET
Monday, March 18
A young detective takes on the case of a twelve-year-old girl who’s
discovered to be pregnant in a breathtaking but hard-bitten town in New
10:00 PM ET
Monday, March 18
The search for Tui grows more intense; Questions multiply as Detective
Robin Griffin’s pursuit of a suspect escalates unexpectedly.March 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm #269083
I would absolutely love to see Elisabeth Moss winning but I have a feeling this performance will be too subtle for Emmys. They prefer their TV movie leading ladies being bigger than life.March 19, 2013 at 8:17 am #269084
Review: Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” a riveting long-form mystery
Elisabeth Moss is showcased brilliantly in Sundance miniseries.
by Alan Sepinwall
I have no idea if Jane Campion, co-director and co-creator of Sundance’s “Top of the Lake,” has ever seen “The Killing,” or the Danish series that inspired it. But the mystery miniseries certainly plays like she watched a few hours of the AMC version, leaned back in her chair and said, “Let me show you how it’s done, kid.”
It’s underselling “Top of the Lake” to simply say that it’s everything “The Killing” mistakenly thinks it is — a haunting, meditative police procedural that takes advantage of its running time (*) to delve deeply into its characters, their world, and the way the crime impacts everyone involved — but it’s hard not to keep noticing the similarities, and the way that “Top of the Lake” so perfectly fits the description that Veena Sud uses to discuss “The Killing.”
(*) In New Zealand, the series is being broken into six one-hour installments, some of which will air together. Sundance, which debuts it tonight at 9, has edited it differently. All the material is presented in the same order it was meant to be in, but there are seven total segments (two air tonight, and another two air together for the finale), each slightly shorter than the original, which means they sometimes start or stop in odd places.
So again we have a crime involving an underage girl in a location defined by the weather—here a gorgeous but remote New Zealand mountain town in winter, where a 12-year-old named Tui (Jacqueline Joe) disappears shortly after police discover she’s pregnant. And again we have another female police detective (Elisabeth Moss from “Mad Men,” working with a Kiwi accent) who has a dark past that leads her to get too involved with her cases—and, for good measure, she even has an out-of-town fiance complaining about how long it’s taking her to close this case and get back to him. It doesn’t rain every seven minutes, but I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least if Joel Kinnaman had ambled into the frame at one point to ask Moss if he could bum a cigarette.
The pace is actually even slower than on “The Killing,” both in terms of how much plot happens in a given episode and how long the case takes to investigate (**). But because it’s a shorter, self-contained story, and because Jane Campion (here working with Gerard Lee on scripts and taking turns behind the camera with Garth Davis) is a great writer and director, the character work is rich and devastating, the atmosphere hypnotic, and the overall storytelling so good that even if the mysteries hadn’t been resolved, I wouldn’t have felt like my time was wasted. With “Top of the Lake,” who done it ultimately isn’t as important as the toll the crime takes on our heroine, and on the community around her.
(**) The miniseries’ biggest flaw, actually, is its difficulty conveying the passage of time. There’s a scene in a later episode where Moss mentions two months have passed since they opened the case, when to me it seemed like a week at most.
Let’s start with Moss, who’s sensational as Robin Griffin, a native of this town who’s on leave from her job in Sydney to visit her ailing mother. The case dredges up memories of why she had to flee to Australia, and while the idea of the cop (or doctor, or lawyer) who finds a personal parallel to their latest case is one of the oldest clichés in the business, Moss makes Robin’s pain and rage feel so personal and specific that it never felt like something I’d seen a million times before.
Moss is ably supported by a cast that includes Peter Mullan as Matt Mitcham, local drug kingpin and the missing girl’s aging, violent father; David Wenham as Robin’s temporary partner, and a man whose loyalties seem torn between the case and the seedy charisma of Matt; Thomas M. Wright, Jay Ryan (from the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast”!), and Kip Chapman as Matt’s three sons (one good, two bad); and Holly Hunter as GJ, a cryptic woman running a commune on a pristine part of town called Paradise that Matt Mitcham, of course, considers his birthright.
The commune scenes are weird—one of the earliest involves a woman delivering a monologue about the chimp she used to share a bed with, prompting one of Matt’s sons to ask whether it was “your boyfriend or a pet”—and for the longest time feel simply like an excuse for Campion and Hunter to reunite 20 years after they won Oscars together for “The Piano.” But Hunter, wearing a long grey wig and rarely rising from the armchair GJ keeps as her one piece of furniture, has an arresting physical presence. And as the series moves along, it begins to make sense why so many of the women in the story find themselves seeking the counsel of GJ, even though her advice rarely seems what they expect. We’re told early on that GJ is “in a different mental state,” and after the harsh experiences each character has been through, a different mental state seems to be the only way to survive.
And Hunter’s corner of the series ultimately works because “Top of the Lake” has so much to say about the way we live and the way we deal with trauma—be it rape, child abuse, or even something as typical as the loss of an elderly parent. It’s an odd subplot, but this is an odd miniseries at times—one that tells a mystery story, and tells it well, but that layers so much humanity and emotion and dread on top of it.
It’s a remarkable miniseries, and one that I eagerly dived into. (The imagery alone is incredible, with one scene on a rocky cliff a reminder of how nature can be so beautiful and terrifying at once.) It also speaks to the value of the miniseries genre, where you can tell a story, tell it well, and get out before you’ve created too many problems for the sake of perpetuating the franchise. “The Killing” had many, many problems, but I at least wonder what it might have been like if Sud had been told it would begin and end within those original 13 episodes.
But that’s a hypothetical. This is an absolute: “Top of the Lake” is great.March 19, 2013 at 10:33 am #269085
It’s just the 3rd proper miniseries with a B+ average on Metacritic, after Bleak House and The Pacific, in 2005 & 2010. It’s more in the vein of Bleak House in that a total of 3 people have writing and/or directing duties (I think), vs. Pacific’s 11. I loved Bleak House; hopefully I’ll love this.March 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm #269086
Loving this so far.March 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm #269087
I’m stunned in how good this cast is, no words for Moss and Mullan, definetely emmy worth actors. Don’t quite know what to say about Hunter so far, quite a transformation she had, looks sharp as ever playing that character but I can’t tell how good her acting is, dunno why.
Can’t wait for episode 3.March 26, 2013 at 9:04 am #269088
Catching up with this on DVR. I’m midway through Part 2, and I’m completely absorbed with the material. There’s definitely a weirdness to the storylines in general (which I dig), though I wonder how this will catch on with audiences and Emmy voters. It’s a foreign production in every way (rhythms, tone, landscape, accents, etc.), which can be an asset or a liability. I expect this to be compared to “The Killing” for better or worse, so I really hope it at least sticks its landing by the conclusion. Elizabeth Moss is captivating so far in the lead role. Jane Campion’s direction is exquisite. It’s shameful that the supporting categories are gone now, b/c Holly Hunter and most glaringly Peter Mullan would have been very deserving nominees there, and now they’ll be snubbed completely. They always get rid of categories right as there’s an abundance of worthy contenders in the running for nominations. Oh well, whatever. I’ll try to wrap up Part 3 soon.
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