The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls – Movie Review
By Ron Wilkinson May 27, 2011, 0:44 GMT
Fun, disarming and musically provocative, the Topp Twins are New Zealand\'s finest lesbian country and western singers and the country\'s greatest export since rack of lamb and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. ...more
Although claims of their having “an extraordinary effect on people, from all walks of life” may be exaggerated, the world needs to hear these two.
Now for something completely over the Topp. The Topp twins, Jools and Lynda, are the world’s only comedic, yodeling, horse riding, ranch-working, lesbian twin sisters and you can see them at a theatre near you. Well, perhaps not that near, but, hopefully, in the Western hemisphere.
Everybody who has been to New Zealand knows the Kiwis have a distinct personality. It is an eclectic point of view tempered with skepticism, practical survival skills, a well-defined point of view and no fear of speaking out.
Everybody who has been to Auckland has probably seen rich yacht owners drinking with rowdy crewmembers and itinerant, penniless hikers weaving in and out between the anti-beef industry protesters. Understanding and appreciating that Lynda Topp ran for mayor of Auckland, and almost won, tells the whole story about the outrageousness of these two.
It is often said that if somebody tried to make a story about two such sisters, nobody would ever believe it. They grew up farming and ranching and still do that when they are not on the road. Their gender-bending antics and politically outspoken pop tunes made them renegades once.
However, in the past decade or two they have merged comfortably into more or less mainstream politics, at least mainstream liberal politics. By the way, this is not because the twins have moderated their views. It is because the rest of world became more liberal. These two were in the faces of homophobes everywhere, before it became cool to do so.
The singing style of the duo has shades of k.d. lang with her big boned gal style. The Topps are close to her in age (born 1958 compared to 1961 for kdl). K.d. has it all over the twins with her earth-shaking voice and understanding of the Patsy Cline school of heart-breaking American country-pop.
However, when it comes to putting on a multi-dimensional show the twins pull way out in front. They have a remarkable multi-media skill for donning costumes and coming up with dialogues ranging from the wealthy women who do lunch to the two Kens and the Bowling ladies.
In these routines they mix and distill past genres ranging from the Marx Brothers to the Smothers Brothers and manage to skewer every existing stereotype there is. In the end it boils down to Bob Dylan’s advice to get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand, for the times they are a changin’.
No doubt about it, there is something about a maverick point of view that appeals to Americans. It may appeal to others to a lesser extent. Without question this movie is a godsend to the gay activist community.
Unfortunately, that sword cuts both ways. It is hard to separate the sexual orientation rant from the genuine humor and intimacy of these two remarkable women. Many men will not get the lesbian message and they will be left with the music and humor that will appeal to some and not others.
The fact that Jools is a breast cancer survivor further deepens the chops of the sisters when it comes to knowing the hard knocks of life. Director Leanne Pooley has developed a remarkable chemistry and a high level of trust with these two women.
She is able to weave the film from personal interactions to public appearances, from the deadly serious to the outrageously nonsensical. This makes for a very dynamic and entertaining movie. It has fun and it has depth and honesty as well.
Having said that, the humor in the film is narrow in its focus. The routines will be ho-hum to Americans, and probably most Europeans, who are have become jaded over the years with the likes of the Groucho/Smothers Brothers or who grew up listening to Richard Prior and George Carlin.
The routines have more in common with Monty Python than with Lucille Ball. Insightful at times, at other times they are simply silly. Suffice it to say they will appeal to some folks more than others. Even so, this film has won awards in numerous festivals and has brought the joyful twins, still mischievous after all these years, to audiences around the world.
We are all better for it.
Visit the movie database for more information.
Directed by: Leanne Pooley
Featuring: Jools Topp and Linda Topp
Release Date: May 13, 2011
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 84 minutes
Country: New Zealand
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