“Why do I feel so manipulated?” Jen Vafidis on Top of the Lake:
Well, because I am being manipulated, in a special Jane Campion sort of way. Her archetypes, like Harvey Keitel’s noble savage in The Piano or Abbie Cornish’s romantic playgirl in Bright Star, grow spines, but they’re still replicas, albeit imperfect ones. It’s not that Top of the Lake is posing as a detective thriller, as some critics have suggested. It’s that the writing on the show is particularly self-conscious. There’s an echo effect. Campion plays a much larger game of bait-and-switch. You are watching a procedural drama that refuses to be simply that, often comporting itself as a meditation on trauma and recovery. The series is miming its detective thriller predecessors while it throws a wrench in their gears. All while looking distractingly gorgeous.
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