Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Campion Embraces TV Over Film with Moodily Misogynistic 'Top of the Lake,' Review Roundup

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 1, 2013 at 4:28PM

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Jane Campion marks yet another first-rate filmmaker ("The Piano") who when faced with an uphill climb to get such idiosyncratic smart-films as "Bright Star" financed and released, has transitioned to long-form television. It's a sheer delight to see her stretch out in a six-hour mini-series format with "Top of the Lake" (Sundance Channel, March 18), a gorgeous mystery thriller set in the New Zealand vacation country where Campion spent her summers growing up.

'Top of the Lake''s Moss and Hunter
'Top of the Lake''s Moss and Hunter


The disappearance of a pregnant preteen exposes the raw wounds at the heart of an isolated southern New Zealand community in the absorbing and richly atmospheric "Top of the Lake." Centered around Elisabeth Moss' excellent performance as a detective for whom the case uncovers disturbing echoes of her own troubled history, this multistranded crime saga from writer-director Jane Campion and co-creator Gerard Lee is satisfyingly novelistic in scope and dense in detail. Yet it also boasts something more, a singular and provocative strangeness that lingers like a chill after the questions of who-dun-what have been laid to rest.

The Playlist:

Admittedly, it's difficult to discuss "Top Of The Lake" without at least addressing the vague similarities in set-up to AMC's once-cancelled, now-revived, "The Killing." Like AMC's show, Campion's dramatic murder mystery centers on a female protagonist and detective so personally drawn to and then invested in a crime involving a young girl, it consumes her and supersedes her pre-ordained plans… Some of Moss' most intense and gripping work to date that will surely demonstrate she needs to be tapped for more lead drama roles.

This writer was only able to see two episodes of "Top Of The Lake," but he's already drawn into to something that feels like it will grow more haunting and powerful as it goes on – the promise of the entire story being completed in seven episodes, rather than drawn on for two agonizing seasons, makes it seem all the more worthwhile.

This article is related to: Reviews, Jane Campion, Elisabeth Moss, Sundance Film Festival, Holly Hunter, Television, TV, TV Reviews

E-Mail Updates

Festivals on TOH

Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.