It doesn’t matter how many droopy sweaters you put Kirsten Dunst in — and in Upside Down, she wears quite a few — she always looks luminous, as if she’s just slid down to Earth on a sunbeam. Actually, that’s an image writer-director Juan Solanas could have run with in this romantic fantasy about a boy, Adam (Jim Sturgess), and a girl, Eden (Dunst), who come from two different mythical worlds, one of which defies the laws of gravity as we know it. As special-effects movies go, this is a relatively modest one, but Solanas knows that imagination can take audiences further than lavish budgets will. The picture’s best moments are often the simplest, as when Solanas turns an ordinary kiss between his archetypal lovers into an outtake from a dream Cirque du Soleil: The boy’s feet are planted firmly on earth as the girl reclines on a rock hovering above, and the point where their lips meet is the true center of gravity. Solanas comes up with arresting images; it’s in telling the story that he stumbles, getting so tripped up in the allegorical details of his invented universe that his characters suffer. The plot is needlessly woolly, like something Douglas Sirk and Philip K. Dick might have sketched out on a cocktail napkin. Dunst is radiant, as always, though it’s radiance with depth: She’s not just your average dream girl, but grav-ity’s rainbow. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough of her.
March 15-21, 2013