LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
14 July 2013
Top Of The Lake Sinks To The Bottom

12 year old pregnant girl disappears. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss to the rescue.
Murder and mayhem ensue.

The highlights:

The accents. Multiculturalism in the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island
community, Paradise. Everyone seems to have a different accent, except for
Elisabeth Moss, the child protection specialist detective who only occasionally
inserts a Kiwi word or two. As the main character in the 6 part drama, a few
lessons wouldn’t have gone amiss....When quizzed on Peter Mullan’s
unmistakable Aberdeenshire accent, Campion’s response was that “there are a
lot of Scottish people in New Zealand”. Who knew?

The hair: Oh dear. Oh dear. What is going on here? Hair. The first hint - the
long white tresses of the detective’s mother dying of cancer. ‘I have longer hair
than you’ Holly Hunter, GJ, a healer of women has donned a long grey wig that
she and others can sit on. When the obvious reference to Campion’s own long
grey mane was made: “I didn’t really see it because Holly is so tiny”. Didn’t see
it? Hair...height? Related? I’m worried that Campion’s trademark hair is
draining her brain. She thinks Mullan’s long stringy wig makes him “very sexy”.
Are we on the same planet? One of the drug-dealer-dog-killer’s sons has a
shaved head, the other has half a shaved head and a product-created quasi-
quiff. More sons. More hair to marvel.

The dialogue. “Did you see the tits on the naked one?” Or something equally
ludicrous and ‘the tits’ were not noteworthy. Sorry. One of the women-seeking-
solace confessed to the psychotic Mullan: ‘I’m Anita. I’m from Syracuse. (And
this Scottish transplant thug would be familiar with Syracuse....Is anyone?) My
story is quite bad. I had this chimpanzee called Brad. We were very close. We
slept together and we bathed together... Brad became very difficult to handle.
He became very possessive. Eventually I had him castrated. Finally he attacked
my best friend. Brad had to be killed... I’m pretty much a mess.’ No this story
is. Clearly taken from an actual event in America where a woman’s pet chimp
ripped off the face of her friend. Funny that.

Anita asks a worried woman: “You ever try masturbating? It’s very relaxing and
not fattening.” If this woman hasn’t discovered masturbation by the time she is
middle-aged.... But she likes ‘penis’ – dear god the dialogue – while Anita from
Syracuse likes ‘um, um, big penises’. Really? Really? I do despair.

It gets more unspeakable. Guru GJ informs pregnant 12 year old “It’s a time
bomb!” Tui asks long-grey-haired GJ: ‘What happened to you?’ GJ: ‘A
calamity. It was as if I was hit by lightning. Every cell of my body changed.’ Tui:
‘How come you’re still alive?’ GJ: ‘I don’t think I am. I’m a zombie.’ No. That’s
the brilliant
The Returned. No mistake there.

The acting: one-dimensional over-acting.

The feminism: Naked woman walks back and forth in the background
occasionally carrying something. Very existential. Women portrayed as mono-
syllabic, silly and aggressive. Men portrayed as sexist, stupid and violent isn’t
an ode to feminism.

Campion’s homage to the wildly self-absorbed David Lynch; “I really love David
Lynch.
Blue Velvet made me faint with delight...so I guess I am an apostle.”
Mistake number 522.

A BBC/Sundance Channel co-production apparently fervently acclaimed in
America. No comment necessary. The script was co-written with Campion’s
long-ago ex still good friend, Gerald Rose. According to Campion, whenever
she wrote something daft, Rose was there to suggest otherwise. Not vigorously
enough.

“I also love crime-mystery and I like scandal.” Don’t we all. “Yup, it’s a sort of
scandal melodrama”. But it’s unconvincing...it’s pretentious...it’s...it’s rubbish .
‘Paradise’ it isn’t. Or perhaps it’s a comedy and I’ve got it all wrong. Or perhaps
not. How funny is dog killing....

It could be worse. I could be threatened with imminent torture and be coerced
into suffering through an episode of the US Showtime sex-comedy on BBC,
The White Queen. Perhaps adjusting to Moss wearing a woolly hat and an
obviously summery T-shirt – at the same time – is a better choice.
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