Saturday, 29 July 2017

"Top of the Lake: China Girl" Review

The first season back in 2013 was a muddled masterpiece - great cast and atmospheric New Zealand locales. Jane Campion's Sydney-based opus is a hot mess.
Nothing rings true. The dialogue is clunky. The characters are unbelievable and unsympathetic. Yes, I get the 'misogyny takes many guises' message. I don't need to be hit over the head with it (the sniggering police recruits, the slimy geeks in the cafe, Mary's smarmy boyfriend Puss - or should that be Pus).
The situations are unreal, rather than quirky. What was the space helmet bit in Miranda's kitchen all about? If I want surreal, I can go to the sublime "Twin Peaks".
Any good stuff?
The bobbing suitcase, Clayton Jacobson's easygoing persona, Jane Campion's daughter, Nicole Kidman's frizzy grey coiff.

Episode 2 (not directed by Campion) was an improvement due to the N.Z. flashback, interesting plot twists and two standout scenes - Robin vs Julia (poor hubby Pyke) and Robin meeting Mary.
Ray, the Medical Examiner (Geoff Morrell), is stealing every scene he is in. I'm warming to Elizabeth Moss's understated performance.
Random weird stuff:
  • The New Zealand police acting like 6 year olds on the suspension bridge.
  • Miranda's 'open-door' therapy.
Episode 3's florid highlights:
  • The overwrought restaurant scene complete with embarrassed customers, the 'c-bomb' and Alexander's chandelier rant. Terrific seeing Marg Downey ("Fast Forward", "Kath & Kim") as Julia's partner. She seems to be typecast as the new age nutbag.
  • The return of David Wenham (Al Parker) - wheelchair bound Bond villain transforms into Hitchcockian psycho-killer.
Episode 4 (the nose-biting ep).
No mention of Parker's fate, just more cringeworthy developments.
Just when you thought Alexander couldn't get more detestable, he excels himself at the Father-Daughter bash; then pimps out Mary. The show defies logic. The nose biting scene got more gratuitous by being set on a nudist beach with sweeping views of Sydney's skyline.

Episode 5 (Jane Campion is back in the director's chair) - 59 minutes of my life I will never get back. More tortuous dialogue, implausible situations and a "Taxi Driver"-like denouement that you could see coming mid episode.

Episode 6 (final)
The Bondi Beach manhunt was another unbelievable scene. Why hide on the beach on a 35 degree day?  Because it was cinematic, that's why.
"Top of the Lake: China Girl" should have been a four-parter at the most. This story of loss, parenthood and surrogacy could have been more economically told. The production was ham-fisted and ponderous.

P.S. Small quibble: How could Alexander get a bag of bottled water through airport security?

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