The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

3 out of 5 stars
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Imagine a cross between the Indigo Girls and the Smothers Brothers, and you'd have the Topp Twins, New Zealand's finest yodeling country-western-and-comedy lesbian sibling duo. Raised on a farm and performing together since their early teens, Jools and Linda Topp are depicted as a distinctly homegrown phenomenon, perfectly happy to eschew arenas in favor of playing at local fairs, in the streets and---at one point---on top of a moving tractor. Moreover, they're a cannily subversive pair, overtly promoting same-sex civil liberties (among other causes) through a distinctly rural musical tradition that connects them to their country's heritage. Such up-front activism is also present in their late-'90s TV sketch show, in which the duo sent up various social classes---notably through two clueless-socialite characters named Prue and Dilly Ramsbottom---with a gentle tolerance that spoke to the compassionate inclusiveness of their work and their warmth for all types of Kiwi culture.

Director Leanne Pooley's documentary on the sisters and their "anarchist variety act" is definitely a formulaic bit of portraiture, but given its engaging, pioneering subjects, gimmickry is hardly needed to spice things up. Structured around a retrospective concert, the film offers an affectionate career recap full of clips, fan testimonies and reminiscences from the untouchable ladies themselves; if neither the personal novelty of the Topps nor their professional successes and failures is fully investigated, it's to the film's credit that these elements are never milked for undue pathos, either.

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