Skimming the surface

The infinitely more riveting glacial drama of Sealy Tarn, Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand

I’ve an elephant in my room, and it has long, straight, silver-grey hair with a middle parting, and a thick southern US of A drawl. It is but one among many. They are living in Paradise and, apart from the silver-haired one, they all like to gambol naked together in the freezing waters of New Zealand’s South Island. They are the conceit of someone else with long, straight silver-grey hair, someone who has been, on occasion, something of a hero; someone who should, if I may be so bold, get a grip.

But as I watch Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake and have to listen without snorting with laughter – or worse, gagging – to lines such as, “I’m going to love you forever; we’re going to walk through the valley of death with a rainbow over us,” yay verily, I do fear evil, and that my Campion-lovin’ days are numbered. Truth be told, they took a hammering with A Portrait of a Lady, and barely held steady at In the Cut. Thanks, Mark Ruffallo.

I imagine a group of creatives putting their heads together. “Okay, guys, cinema has died hard. It’s all about HBO and the slow-release mini-series. Look at how long they’ve dragged Mad Men out for. Give me your best shot. Jane, baby, what have you got for me?”

The whiteboard is wiped down and the brainstorming begins:
– diminutive cars driving through vast, jaw-droppingly beautiful, yet terrifyingly alienating landscapes
– a desolate outpost town clinging to the edge of civilisation, whose redneck inhabitants play dangerous games of darts at the pub
– a bunch of emotionally damaged women who like to get naked, pat horses and pay cash for swift and meaningless sex with the town rednecks, while living in brightly painted shipping containers by a large and very cold lake surrounded by imposing mountains
– an albino girl
– a po-faced female shaman figure known only by her initials, with long, straight grey hair, whom the damaged women make tea for, and who, in return, lights more than one cigarette at a time and shares them around, along with densely opaque nuggets of wisdom
– David Wenham
– a much younger, po-faced female with a pudding-basin haircut and good skin, originally from said desolate outpost town who’s escaped this barren yet eternally majestically backdropped hell-hole to work in Sydney for years, only to return with an accent that’s more Elle Macpherson (post London migration) crossed with Zsa Zsa Gabor than Janet Frame
– a craggy, shouty Scottish git with long, stringy hair who’s not Billy Connolly, lairding it over a couple of surly bastard sons and a handful of large dogs and one small fluffy one
– a pregnant teenager who walks into a lake and walks out again, then disappears
– tattoos

But why Elisabeth Moss? Why? And which voice coach is responsible for that travesty of an accent? And why hasn’t someone thought to slap Ms Moss out of her coma yet?

Go back to Mad Men, Elisabeth, for pity’s sake. It’s slow, god knows, but the script makes some semblance of sense, and you’re good at your American accent, and no one watching it can be in any doubt that it’s not a comedy, even if it doesn’t have mountains.