Sundance response to TOP OF THE LAKE: “Gorgeous,” “provocative” “masterpiece”


This past Sunday, an eager crowd of critics and fans devoted a full day — from 9 till 5 — at Park City’s classic Egyptian Theater to watching Jane Campion’s TOP OF THE LAKE in its entirety. The screening of the seven-part series was a Sundance Film Festival first and despite the serious time commitment, audiences and critics were thrilled by what they’d seen.

The suspenseful story follows Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), who has returned home to care for her ailing mother when she’s drawn into the investigation of a preteen girl’s pregnancy and disappearance. Set in a remote New Zealand region with a “devastatingly gorgeous landscape,” as Jada Yuan of Vulture calls it, the series’ mood is “taut and eerie.” Moss gives a performance “that could set a very promising tone for her post-Mad Men career. She’s stripped bare, both emotionally raw and literally.” As GJ, the leader of a group of abandoned women hunkered down in a makeshift camp, Holly Hunter offers “hilariously frank comic relief, as well as the story’s moral center.”

Kate Aurthur at BuzzFeed called the series a “masterpiece,” and said “TOP OF THE LAKE is an upsetting, beautiful, fantastically acted mystery, and to experience something so intense so intensely was a privilege… It made it feel like an event, as spectacular fiction should feel.” Aurthur also points out, hilariously (and astutely), that Hunter’s GJ bears an uncanny resemblance to series creator Campion, with her super-long, straight silver hair parted down the center.

The mystery-suspense story is “satisfyingly novelistic in scope and dense in detail,” says Justin Chang at Variety. “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.”

Chang also praises Moss’ performance, saying that she “brings a gripping combination of pluck, vulnerability and intense anger to the complicated role of a woman who fights for every inch of ground and at one point drives a broken bottle into a man’s chest.”

One thing’s for sure: TOP OF THE LAKE is not to be missed.