Top of the Lake (TV Series 2013–2017) Poster


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A Beautiful Place Full of Horrible Men
cherold3 March 2015
Season One Review: I've been looking at the reviews of the first season of this series, and I feel most of the negative ones are from people who simply wanted a very different show. There are inexplicable comparisons with Twin Peaks and complaints about the quality of the mystery, as though this is a series in which the central mystery is the selling point.

It's not a classic mystery story, but neither is it meant to be (and neither was Twin Peaks, so when people complain it's not a good mystery "like Twin Peaks" I am profoundly puzzled). Instead it is the exploration of a created world. The story is shambling, with odd strings that seem untethered, but so is life. Yes, you could strip out Holly Hunter's brilliant performance as a down-to-earth guru, toss out Robin's mother, toss out all sorts of things, and you could have a short, standard mystery, but why would you want to do that?

Top of the Lake is a fascinating look at a brutal, beautiful world. The beauty comes from the landscape, the brutality from the men, who are remarkably awful. I can see why some people would complain about a show where almost every man is a monster, except for a couple of crazy ones and one passably nice guy. It doesn't bother me, but it's the one criticism I've read that I wouldn't argue against.

The show is not about the mystery but about character. There is enough mystery and plot to keep that part involving, but this is more about Robin's inner struggles and outer determination and passion than anything else.

I wish more of the reviewers here talked about the mini-series that exists instead of the one they wanted.

Season Two review: I had though Top of the Lake was a mini-series and was surprised there *was* a season two. It is less scenic and even grimmer than the first season. There is more grit and less quirk, but there is still the complexity of character and the dark view of male-female interactions (i.e. a lot of the men are jerks).

It was interesting, but not so much that I'm eager for a third season.
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Fantastic show
katalist42030 March 2013
What a fantastic show this is so far! The acting is top notch, the atmosphere is spot on, the cinematography is breathtaking and its just really well done overall.

While I watched the first 3 episodes I kept saying "Wow, what a wonderful surprise this is!" and "This reminds me of Twin Peaks a bit".

I was not expecting much here, but I saw a handful of new shows had started, all of them sucked but this one is top notch. If you like shows with good acting, atmosphere and cinematography give it a try. Can't wait to get it on DVD one day! There really is nothing wrong with this show, very rare that I say that but this is the best new show since the other year when Homeland and BOSS started up.

9.5/10 so far and I cannot wait to see more episodes!
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China Girl is broken
tjmack-852-264273 August 2017
S2 is a mess.

Storyline is haphazard - you feel very little empathy for the supposed victim at the centre of the story and those around her. There's no suspense or any real cliffhangers Even Robin's story left me feeling meh by the end.

Characters are very roughly and lazily drawn. Either crude stereotypical male chauvinistic numpties at the Police HQ; the wimpy new age man who's so afraid he doesn't react when a woman is physically assaulted or when his daughter hurls abuse in the form of some ridiculously written dialogue at everyone except her supposedly 'scary' bf - who's as scary as the skin on a rice pudding - but then, he is called 'Puss(y)' - he's not the brilliant and riveting Peter Mullan from S1, by any means. David Wenham's Al makes a return in this and he portrays more menace from a wheelchair than he ever does. Nicole Kidman's acting ability and star quality are totally wasted by making her into an embittered, crazy latent middle-aged lesbian, which feels absolutely forced and disingenuous towards the audience.

If you want to see Elisabeth Moss on form go watch S1 of this or The Handmaid's Tale, this isn't her finest.
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Excellent offering
gs208 April 2013
This is clearly a wonderful piece of work with very precise character development that is lacking in many current productions that have a lot more money to work with. There is a boatload of really skilled actors, a great writer/director, a story with motives slowly and carefully revealed and a beautiful location. As well it is a clever detective story. What more could you want. All the characters seem like real people in that they have all suffered or struggled in some way and are quite imperfect and have all wound in the same place. Really worth a look if you like good stories by professionals who get to tell the story the way they want.
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Very interesting show
alantas30 April 2019
This is probably one of my favorite shows and I uphold my 10 stars rating after watching the second season. Top of the lake is a slow burner, with unique characters that are very flawed and human. If you let it, it can get under your skin and leaves you wondering about the heavy issues, that it dares to deal with. For example, the second season's main theme is motherhood, abuse in relationship and exploitation of a marginal group of people (sex workers). I think you wouldn't expect the ending which is a quite unique twist, but I won't say more. This show is also quite good at playing with your expectations and turning them upside down, which is the hallmark of good storytelling. The female characters are quite prominent and well written, without being obnoxious feminist champions. They feel real and very relatable. The antagonist is also very good, I was worried, that the new antihero will be only a pale shadow compared to Peter Mullan, but oh boy, was I wrong! I can only recommend Top of the Lake, it's not your typical good guys vs bad guys show. It's about people who collide with each other, have interesting story arcs and face relatable problems under unusual circumstances. Don't listen to people who watch half an episode and come here to write a "review".
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Terrific and Haunting
DinosaurAct8610 July 2013
Top of the Lake follows you around long after you've finished an episode (or the entire series, for that matter). It operates with a sophisticated sense of naturalism, which probably initially alienated many viewers begging to be bashed over the head with plot details. This is not simply a subtle noir, but a meditation on identity, which provides the necessary ammunition for some powerful performances from Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Peter Mullan and Holly Hunter, as well as others.

This is an atmospheric detective story, not an action-packed whodunnit. You will find yourself both disgusted with and moved by humanity as the finale's credits roll.
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Character Development
kenhalverson5717 April 2013
Brilliant character development; each character develops along true lines; their development is not hindered or compromised by the plot line. Beautiful plot twists; the obvious happening when unexpected and bolts from the blue when all seems straight forward. As confronting as real life itself. The cinematography has faithfully reflected the essence and ambiance of this special area. In episode 1 I was critical toward the US/Aust/NZ accent and inflection of Elisabeth Moss but then accepted it as part of her (Robyn's) character. Any misgivings (ABC) of her being cast in the role should totally have been cast aside by such a gritty performance. The glassing scene in the pub is cloned reality. Magnificent scenery, great acting, intuitive story telling.
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Quality Television
iejeecee18 April 2013
If I had to describe this mini-series in a few key phrases it would be: beautiful scenery, great acting and a gripping plot.

While the shows synopsis suggests a straightforward detective story, it's focus gradually shifts towards it's main protagonist Robin Griffin (played wonderfully by Elisabeth Moss). As she (and we the viewers) slowly discover more about her past.

The intensity ramps up with each episode and your always left wanting to find out more until it all ends in a satisfying climax.

The series does suffer a bit from male-bashing. It doesn't impact the quality in any way, but don't expect to find any likable men here.
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Shades of monotone
meme-3613729 July 2017
I watched both seasons of this show and expected the second season to bring character development, there wasn't much of that. The show strives to create an atmosphere riddled with gloom, misogyny and a female lead battling all her inner demons and the circumstances her personal and professional career land her in. However, she fails to give a wholesome performance, there is something that fails to connect me to her, maybe it is the way she has been written or the actress herself. I did not like the way the female characters were written aside from Nicole Kidman's performance which frankly in my opinion outshone the rest of the cast. There is a lack of realistic portrayals of female characters in this show, and sadly I do not understand the way this show portrays a so called strong female character. Meh, maybe this show wasn't for me but I generally love this genre and have watched a lot of similar shows, but this one always makes me angry at the lack of reality in portraying a strong female lead, and the male characters are always linear and lack development.
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Don't waste your time.
rowie555 October 2017
I have only watched the second series, having done some research on the first series. This started out with a lot of promise ended up farcical. Elisabeth Moss lacks credibility as the lead and also as a police Detective. Her boss oozed being a real cop while the two females were a bit of a joke. Nicole Kidman plays the tree hugging gay mum with startling accuracy as far as a stereotypes go, but she was one shining light in what dragged on to become very average entertainment. Having surrounded ourselves with televisions shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Narcos, Ray Donovan, Ozark, Get Shorty this offering from Jane Campion was very very weak. It amazes me what peoples expectations of gritty drama is, when reviewers on here rate Top of the Lake so highly, when it is clearly in a much lower category than the example of shows I have just listed. In concluding, a few hours of my life I have wasted.
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Kiwis With Attitude
rallen-3492319 July 2016
Imagine the scene in the offices of the New Zealand Tourism Board.

"You know the one thing wrong with this country? Everyone here is too damn nice. It's just so boooring! Visitors aren't coming any more. We godda do something.

"Yeah, agreed, but what?"

"I bin thinking: what about a TV series showing we're really, really weird?"

"Nah, they won't buy it. They know we're too nice."

"No, wait. You remember that old film, what was it, 'Deliverance'? We'll base something on that. Bunch of inbred psychos in backofbeyondsville, throw in a bit of incest, murder, a few hippy lezzies, a detective with a troubled past but a heart of gold sorting it all out…"

"You could be onto something. Might just work…. (laughs) nah, they'll never commission it."

But they did.

Ingredients: a set of male characters who are either morally weak, sociopathic or with an IQ in single figures. A cast of female characters who are abused, long-suffering martyrs. Add some comic relief with a bunch of women in container homes kinda led by a kinda earth mother, mockingly characterized as living on crisps and liquorice allsorts and fantasizing about men with larger-than-average penises.

Plot: Psycho McPsychface, the patriarch of an isolated, family community, lives with his children, grandchildren (some of whom are possibly both) and a colony of feral attack dogs in the middle of nowhere. Named with leaden irony Paradise, this tranquil spot, disturbed only by the occasional pointless murder and the disappearance of a pregnant twelve-year old, is invaded by a commune of traumatized women trying to rediscover their inner souls in peace. They just happen to choose the favourite spot of a psychotic Scotsman, whose Mother is buried on the plot, and whose malice is matched only by his sentimentality – with hilarious consequences! No, not really – I don't think any of these things are funny, even in an ironic way. Which is the main reason for not liking this series, which is patronizing, callous and emotionally manipulative by turns.

But the scenery is really, really lovely. Perhaps I'll visit New Zealand with its great countryside and nice people anyway – and by the way they are mostly genuinely nice, and not a bit boring.
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In the Top10 of greatest bullshi.... i've ever seen!
michaelsplett12 April 2014
I really don't understand whats wrong with all the people who give this crap more than 1 point. The complete story from the beginning to the end is total nonsense and it feels that there are about100 moments in this 350 minutes when you think: aha... which idiot wrote this storybook! Absolutely senseless. This is something you should watch really stoned to have fun of it because then you think the pot makes the WTF-effects and you try to understand what this is about. But you can't even if you haven't smoked pot. So it must be fun if you are high... Absolutely BULLSHI...! The only point which is nice in these 350 minutes are the beautiful landscapes you can there and the film technique is also nice. But that's it. You can watch it, but you have to turn the volume of because the dialogs are nothing for a human being with a minimum of brain.

This is only something for yuppies and wannabe-intellectuals who watch something senseless and think there is something hidden where nothing is.

If you want to see a good criminal drama then watch "BROADCHURCH". This has class and is very very well done...

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Three episodes is enough
yetiman-944-92055410 March 2014
Half-way through, I've finally worked it out. The scenery is a clue. The Dark Lord Sauron has taken over New Zealand, wiping out the inhabitants and replacing them with orcs, who have Australian accents. A little girl has disappeared, possibly eaten by orcs. Frodo returns, disguised as a policewoman, to find the girl, doing battle with numerous orcs, the main one being a reincarnation of Billy Connelly. A witch's coven is established on a lake as a device to distract the viewer from the main plot line, such as it is, and to pad out a production which should not go beyond two hours. Lots of nasty things happen, and will presumably continue to happen in the next three episodes, which I'm not sure I want to watch.

Quite frankly, I find Campion a weird depressive who creates a sick world of grotesque characters so that she can have company. No more, thanks.
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Don't Waste Your Time
chopperDavo16 November 2014
I'm a New Zealander and so this was shot in my home country.

I can tell you New Zealand (NZ) is nothing like this. For one thing it rains 270/365 days in that part of NZ. For another, we have one of the least corrupt and most effective police forces in the world.

But anyway, what prompted me to write this review was the complete misandry shown throughout but especially at the end of this series. I had to look that word up, misandry is the counterpart to misogyny (where men hate, abuse women etc.) In this series, every single man, bar about one, is a rapist, child rapist or murderer. And all the women are victims of such, and recovering etc.

So Jane Campion must have a very jaundiced view of men is all I can say. If a man wrote a script which portrayed women in totally negative ways, they'd be hounded out of the business.

The ending was just over the top. Ridiculous.

Pity, because it could have been so much better.
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Not mini enough
bribaba-847-14074124 June 2013
Jane Campion's entry into the world of the mini-series proves to be a big disappointment. The beautiful photography doesn't compensate for the wooden acting, weak script and the lack of a strong, central character. Chief culprit is Elisabeth Moss, here reprising her role as Peggy in Mad Men; problem is, she's supposed to be a tough antipodean cop. Her wavering Australian/Kiwi/English accent doesn't help, either. Her nemesis, a wild patriarch played by Peter Mullen, has her for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

One of the strengths of US drama is the acting quality in the minor parts, but here the Kiwis looks like they threw the casting net no further than the nearest beach. To deflect from the minuscule narrative, there's a women's camp at the edge of the lake, populated by whimsical characters that look like refugees from a Percy Adlon film (Bagdad Café, Shopping With Rosalie, etc). I'm all for mini-series', but this isn't mini enough.
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Entertainmnet? I don't think so.
southcoastnicknacks21 August 2013
Apart from the fact that the dialogue is gratuitously offensive, it is also offensive in portraying New Zealanders as a bunch of corrupt idiots. The only winner is the scenery, but even this can't save the viewer from the full frontal assault on their tolerance to flawed foul mouthed characters with no integrity or morals whatsoever. When you don't care if the whole lot of them drown themselves in the lake, then it's time to switch off. In my case this was half way through episode three, when I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable as each scene unfolded with no advancement of a very thin plot. It's all been done before.Where was Elizabeth Moss's Kiwi accent? Why did Peter Mullen reprise the same boorish psycho character as in The Fear? For those who rated this a 10. Wake up, this is not art!
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Pretty bad.
LuvNotWar29 June 2013
Top of the Lake earns a solid 8 for the cinematography, but a 1 for everything else. The show looks pretty, but in all other respects it's woefully bad.

The writing is amateurish, with a story that seems cobbled together from random sources like a ransom note, but without the competence. It's almost a compendium of every common literary cliché, and, well, just plain silly. Nothing makes any real sense, none of the plot points add up to anything, as logic flies out the window.

The characters are laughable, while their dialog is simply ridiculous. No one we encounter is in any way realistic and every line they speak sounds completely artificial. The acting ranges from barely tolerable to grossly offensive. This is partly due to some of the main cast being forced to portray foreigners, despite the fact that it's wholly unnecessary.

It all gets even worse when you actually listen to their lines which appear to have been written by a teenager who has never heard a real conversation in their entire life.

Jane Campion has won an Oscar and at least one top award at Cannes. If you didn't already know that, you'd never believe it, based on this show.
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Bottom of the Barrel?
foreverknight4714 July 2013
Look. I really tried to like Jane Campion's new TV series TOP OF THE LAKE (a bad sign in itself as you shouldn't need to try) but I gave up after 50 minutes when I thought to myself "can I take another 5 episodes of this?".

It was beautiful to look at and the acting was excellent but the whiff of cordite that hangs over it from early 80s feminist battles is now very stale. Yes, there was a wry sense of humour in the feminist camp scenes but it was self-indulgence that predominated.

You know you're in trouble when EVERY SINGLE MALE in the series is, as one woman yelled at one point, "an Alpha sh**". All the male cops, the redneck family, even the Maori boyfriend of the dying mother - all violent, insensitive sh**s.

The world has moved on in writing for men as can be seen in the excellent portraits of sensitive and nuanced men we see in Nordic Noir dramas. This has started to trickle down to mainstream Brit drama like BROADCHURCH and THE FALL so there is no excuse for Campion's dinosaur sexual politics at this time.

The dialogue was functional at best and clunky most of the time especially when the story stopped to deliver a lecture on male selfishness which was the equivalent of the writer grabbing the audience by the lapels and delivering a loud and obvious harangue straight in the face.

When I lived in Australia (the closest I've ever been to New Zealand where TOP is set) they had a wonderful expression for something that smelled bad. It was "on the nose".

When I was learning to write dialogue from Americans such as Robert McKee they excoriated dialogue that was simply polemic or info-dump without subtext as "too on the nose" Now I can combine both origins and say, quite accurately, that Jane Campion's new series is "on the nose".
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this is very bad beware
beingmaggie23 October 2013
I don't see the point in trying to fathom this out .this is some delusional weird world of a disillusioned sad and unwell director.when i say unwell I mean a spiritually bankrupt, human being which is sad but sadder for us that we the audience have to sit and watch this insanity that has spawned from this woman's so called "bright mind". I turned off mid ep2 something to do with sheep's vagina's being similar to a woman's, very interesting but not interesting enough to watch any longer . Call me old fashioned but do so like to be entertained maybe its because i am a happy , hopeful, jovial soul ! but seriously this is not entertaining the female detective is miscast for one she's to young two she cant do a kiwi accent three she seems lost in the bizarre script. wow this a woeful tale
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Waste of a Life
karmak-307-57634612 October 2013
Sadly I wasted 6 hours of my life on this dribble, each episode hoping that somehow it would improve on the last, watching till the very last episode hoping maybe it would redeem itself with an amazing twist to make the agony of watching the whole thing worthwhile. Nope, it didn't. Six hours of my life I will never retrieve. The scenery was the only redeeming feature of the mess.

I don't know anything about the leading actress, but she did a poor job of it, was insipid to the extreme, her voice was just annoying and by the end of the series, we were hoping they'd take her out. Her character had no credibility as a detective at all, putting herself in dangerous situations no police officer would even consider and not just once, several times!! She couldn't even maintain an accent with it wavering between supposedly Aussie/NZ and American. All in all, don't bother, and I really have no further interest in watching anything Jane Campion again if this is what she is creating these days. I feel sorry for New Zealanders that this mess is associated with them.
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Sooooo disappointing.
xrsic92210 June 2013
I held such high hopes for this series from Jane Campion, knowing it was to be set in New Zealand, a place of such beauty and rarity. Perhaps too much hope and that is why my disappointment feels so much greater.

Very poorly written, no emotional development, way too long. No beauty or rarity to be found. Acting is okay. The ending is obvious from the VERY beginning as are all the plot 'twists' and 'turns'. Nothing compelling or unexpected happens....ever.

Holly Hunter's character is underutilized. Her performance is the redeeming aspect of the drama series. If the story had been told from her point of view, with her outsider's eyes and paradigms, the series would have at least been interesting. Instead, "GJ" - Hunter's character - is relegated to a few minutes of each episode and has little to do with bringing the viewer closer to the story.

Poor Jane Campion, still searching for success since "The Piano", is not going to find it with this drab, disingenuous series. I forced myself to finish watching it simply to check it off my list.
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just...just awful.
halodotjay21 July 2013
i feel so moved by this as to make an effort to review, if only because at a glance so many seemed to think it was so good. First, i watched it all - yes, i wanted to see how it ended, and to prove to myself i was right from the word go. (i was) But just because a story is entirely predictable doesn't necessarily make it bad. That was left to the direction i guess, and the acting by basically everyone, though i have a soft spot for the old crazy (man - i am certainly not talking about the near pointless holly hunter character). No, i am wrong; there was some really lame story pacing as well, desperately trying to bring something together right at the end and i suppose realising the budget had been blown on long pauses with moody guitar picking. There were definitely elements of a good story in there, though you kind of feel they were the results of some awful first year drama students workshop where you 'brainstorm' with a sheet of a3 and some crayons. Oh my goodness! On and on and on. There is really nothing redeeming about this - i have enjoyed previous efforts by some members of both cast and crew - i hope they are all feeling just a little bit ashamed of this particular body of work. If you are thinking of watching, of course do. It will make you appreciate those other mini-series you've watched.

oh yes, if you are wondering why i watched so much when it was so bad, i blame my partner - and i suppose i was kind of waiting for it to get good because i am a believer in letting stories unfold, and when i realised nothing ever was going to happen, a kind of masochism took over (N.Z enjoys the 5 day cricket game you understand?)
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I liked Season 2 also!
niseynisey28 July 2020
I don't know what some of the reviewers were complaining about. Season 2 was just as good as season 1! I enjoyed the mystery surrounding these cases and how they keep personally affecting Robin. Well done!
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Bottom of the lake
Prismark1012 September 2013
Scandinavian dramas are the in thing on UK television in the last few years.

If we cannot make our own adaptations (Wallander) then we just bring them over with subtitles such as The Killing.

Even ITV jumped on the act making Broadchurch in the Scandi tv style with some success.

It seems critics and public like Nordic dramas that have a languid pace and people with solemn expressions and a murder mystery.

Jane Campion who won an Oscar for writing The Piano and is also an acclaimed director, co-wrote and co directed this series .

Set in New Zealand it bears the hallmark of Scandi crime dramas. In the mix are David Lynch style dramas as well. The kind of thing of a small town having dark secrets. In fact in one of the later episodes, a character mentions reading Blue Velvet.

Whereas Twin Peaks is one of the best TV series made in the last 30 years, Top of the Lake is not even half as good. Something went drastically wrong.

There is an international cast. Oscar winner Holly Hunter is wasted as a leader/guide of a women's commune.

Elisabeth Moss as a detective in search of a missing, pregnant girl does well with her accent, you forget she is American.

Moss seems to do very little detective work, has resentment of her own against the townsfolk and not very sympathetic herself.

In fact finding a sympathetic person in this drama is nearly impossible, Peter Mullan plays the leader of a bunch of brutes who wants the lost girl found and goes around being nasty to everyone.

The plot which is wafer thin just drags and drags. It starts off promisingly enough, you actually think this is going to be good. Then it bores you with its aimlessness.

The last half hour of the final episode takes a turn and is full of twists and action, you wonder where did all that come from.

It is well acted, has nice scenery but with its pedigree it should had really delivered.
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I gave up after only a couple of episodes
fawn_jane2 August 2013
This show is really boring. I kind of like Moss the actress, that kept me watching for a bit. But the plot meanders and goes nowhere. I couldn't stand it anymore as the show ruminates on slow miserable scenes and situations.

The show has this icky "feminist" vibe. I don't know what they were getting at and I don't care at this point; Male characters are all portrayed as nasty and horrible rapist oppressors while the female characters are "strong" and sanctimonious independent "wombyn". Too many scenes with flabby old women walking around naked. That kind of sensibility and framing of reality just isn't for me.
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