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Topsy-Turvy (1999)

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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.

Director:

Mike Leigh

Writer:

Mike Leigh
Won 2 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 28 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Allan Corduner ... Arthur Sullivan
Dexter Fletcher ... Louis
Sukie Smith Sukie Smith ... Clothilde
Roger Heathcott Roger Heathcott ... Stage Doorkeeper
Wendy Nottingham Wendy Nottingham ... Helen Lenoir
Stefan Bednarczyk Stefan Bednarczyk ... Frank Cellier
Geoffrey Hutchings Geoffrey Hutchings ... Armourer
Timothy Spall ... Richard Temple
Francis Lee ... Butt
William Neenan ... Cook
Adam Searle Adam Searle ... Shrimp
Martin Savage Martin Savage ... George Grossmith
Jim Broadbent ... William Schwenck Gilbert
Lesley Manville ... Lucy Gilbert (Kitty)
Kate Doherty ... Mrs. Judd
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Storyline

After their production "Princess Ida" meets with less-than-stunning reviews, the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan is strained to breaking. Their friends and associates attempt to get the two to work together again, which opens the way to "The Mikado," one of the duo's greatest successes. Written by Steve Fenwick <scf@w0x0f.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The egos. The battles. The words. The music. The women. The scandals. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of risque nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | French | German | Italian | Japanese

Release Date:

11 February 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mike Leigh Untitled See more »

Filming Locations:

Hertfordshire, England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,718, 19 December 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,201,757, 21 May 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the beginning of the scene showing the recital in which Sullivan's song "The Lost Chord" was sung, the pianist is shown playing the last few bars of the Nocturne No. 4 in E-flat major, Op. 36, by Gabriel Fauré. The piece was first published in 1884, not long before the events depicted in the film. See more »

Goofs

The Japanese exhibition that Gilbert and Lucy attend did not open until after Gilbert had started work on "The Mikado". Nor did Gilbert purchase a Japanese sword from said exhibition. See more »

Quotes

Rutland Barrington: [rehearsing a line] Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative.
Gilbert: No, Barrington. "An *otherwise* bald and unconvincing narrative."
Rutland Barrington: [faltering] Was that incorrect? I-I do beg your pardon.
Gilbert: On the contrary, it has only just occurred to me.
Rutland Barrington: Ah. To an *otherwise* bald and unconvincing narrative.
Gilbert: Much better.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Mike Leigh in Conversation (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

A Wand'ring Minstrel, I
(1885)
from "The Mikado"
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
Performed by Kevin McKidd and chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Interesting film-making, but too long for the subject matter
16 January 2000 | by Shiva-11See all my reviews

Creative genius is a fickle creature. It is rare (some might say impossible) to find artists working in concert who don't experience the aptly termed "creative differences". Indeed most collaborations, whether the result of clashing egos (Simon and Garfunkel), divergent visions (The Beatles), or plain old hatred (Guns 'N Roses) eventually self-destruct. Therein lies the dilemma for the operatic duo of Gilbert and Sullivan.

After nearly a decade of uninterrupted commercial successes their career has reached a crossroads: their latest effort is doing poorly at the box office due to a combination of lackluster reviews, and a vicious heat wave. Sullivan (Allan Corduner) exhausted and in ill health, repairs to the continent to rejuvenate himself and upon his return informs Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) that he has grown tired of the repetitive and unimaginative nature of their operas. Sullivan has decided to devote his remaining time, however long, to serious music.

After stewing about the revelation for several hours, Gilbert agrees to accompany his wife to a Japanese exposition in the hope that he will find some peace. Instead he experiences an epiphany: he will write a new opera set in Japan. The question is can he convince Sullivan to score it?

Director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies) is legendary for his attention to detail. He requires his actors not only learn their lines, but create a history for the character: their favorite foods, hygiene habits, and literary choices. Consequently he elicits unique performances from his cast. This film is no exception: Broadbent's stoic, sensible, and dignified Gilbert is simultaneously witty and clueless, while Martin Savage's performance as the pompous, manic, substance-abusing diva George Grossmith is eerily familiar (shades of Robert Downey Jr.). Leigh also goes to great efforts to create both a pleasing and authentic visual experience: from the sets, to the backdrops to the costumes, he does an excellent job of recreating the Victorian era. Unfortunately Leigh's microscopic view is also his undoing.

I enjoyed several aspects of this film, but there's just too much of it: with a runtime of 140+ minutes, Leigh spends so much time dwelling on the minutiae of the characters and setting that he forgets about the substance. Little if anything happens in the first hour and a half of the film (one of the reviewers sitting behind me fell asleep) and by the time the film finally hit it's stride I was checking my watch to see when it would be over.

If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, you may enjoy this film. But mark my words: wear comfortable clothes and don't go for the big Coke unless you have a titanic bladder.


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