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Topsy-Turvy

Released: 1999

Character Played: Louis (small role)

Synopsis: Topsy-Turvy is the new film from award-winning writer/director Mike Leigh. The British filmmaker has, in his works, brought filmgoers into intimate contact with ordinary Londoners navigating extraordinary emotional territory. With Topsy-Turvy, Leigh leaps back in time to grant filmgoers an audience with two Londoners whose lives were marked by extraordinary creativity: Gilbert and Sullivan.
William Schwenck Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) is the librettist, writing the words. Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) is the composer, writing the music. Gilbert is the very model of a 19th Century British gentleman, an overly proper married man certain that he knows best - which he often does. Sullivan lives a freer life, almost libertine by comparison, but there is a seriousness of purpose in him.
For nearly a decade, Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaborations have delighted the English people. Their popular comic operas have recouped handsomely for the successful Savoy Theatre; impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte (Ron Cook) himself is a stabilizing influence, gently but firmly overseeing the two men.
But, in 1884, as a London heat wave cuts into the theatre trade, their latest work "Princess Ida" receives lukewarm press. Sullivan wants to quit and compose more serious music, but the two are contractually obligated to create a new work for Carte. Sullivan rejects Gilbert’s next idea as "topsy-turvy" and unbelievable, and although Gilbert tries to accommodate him, they cannot agree. Mired at a creative impasse, Gilbert and Sullivan can barely converse.
Then, Gilbert’s wife Lucy "Kitty" Gilbert (Lesley Manville) drags him along to a Japanese exhibition. Exposure to the very different culture sparks inspiration in Gilbert. He rebounds, conceiving "The Mikado." The concept encourages Sullivan, and the production comes together - which is when the truly hard work begins: the actors (including the dedicated Richard Temple [Timothy Spall] in the lead role) must be rehearsed, coddled and rehearsed again. While striving to cohere as a company, the players’ private lives color their work - but no more than Gilbert and Sullivan’s own, as "The Mikado" makes the difficult, but ultimately rewarding, transition from page to stage.
© Rotten Tomatoes

Reviews: Empire | Channel 4 | SFGate.com | Chicago SunTimes |

Links: IMDb Entry | Brit Movies | British Film Institute

Available Formats: Region 1 DVD | Region 2 DVD | NTSC Video | PAL Video