I just finished watching the over-the-top 2013 television drama miniseries, Top of The Lake. I say “over-the-top” because to me, as a viewer, I felt so many times like my comfort zone was being invaded. This is rare, but Top of the Lake is a rarity in and of itself in a perpetual sea of competing crime and drama series out there.
The main storyline revolves around a visibly pregnant 12-year-old girl, Tui, who goes missing (by choice?) in New Zealand. Jane Campion, a native New Zealander, co-directed the series and reunited to work with Holly Hunter once more (The Piano was ten years ago). Here’s where I confess… I was less excited about seeing Holly Hunter on the screen than I was about her cast mate Elisabeth Moss. Who? Elisabeth Moss aka Peggy Olson from Mad Men.
Elisabeth Moss did not disappoint. She was phenomenal in Top of the Lake as were Holly Hunter and the actress who played young Tui, Jacqueline Joe. Even Lucy Lawless aka Xena, or more recently Lucretia Batiatus, makes a perfect cameo appearance. As a matter of fact and overall, the casting and writing and cinematography were incredible and I was again awed by the beauty of New Zealand.
Through all seven episodes of the miniseries there were unexpected twists and turns to the plot and moments where I held my breath because of the intensity of a scene. Without giving much away I can tell you that people in the story died and some lived, and that there was lots of nudity and comedy to balance the dark and scary world of sexual abuse and rape, right or wrong it was all covered in Top of the Lake.
Among the other series I’m currently watching, there’s comedy and nudity and sex and death, but none of the other series have left me with such a sinking feeling so long after I’ve turned the off the screen. I believe that what’s bothering me still about my viewing experience, is the fact that what happened to 12-year-old Tui in Top of the Lake is a very real thing that can happen outside of a television script. Having stumbled upon the show with no prior information about it, I was floored by the subject matter and then slowly hopeful that some good would come of the program in the end. I believe I hoped too much.
Having been a victim of sexual abuse myself, at a very young age, I walked away from Top of the Lake disappointed. I realize this is just my assessment, and a very specific one related to my experiences and subsequent expectations of a television show. Although I will take nothing away from the wonderful work of fiction this series is, I do wonder if there could have been a greater purpose to shocking the viewer with content so raw and ugly. Ugly, compared to the beauty of the New Zealand landscape, I get it.
Did they revolve the story around the growing baby belly of a child, and other sexual victims through the seven episodes, just for shock’s sake? It felt that way, and in retrospect made everything else in the writing less believable. Hence, my “over-the-top” label…