The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

Jools and Lynda Topp are a cultural institution in New Zealand and have been for almost 30 years. Coming from a farming background, their mixture of character comedy and country and western songs, which range from the hilarious to the poignant to the raucously politically charged, is loved by farmers and city folk alike, true blue Kiwi patriots to anarchistic youth, which is no mean feat for a couple of yodelling lefty lesbian activists.

Leanne Pooley's movie Untouchable Girls follows the career of the twins in a pleasingly linear format, starting with their farming childhood in Huntly in rural New Zealand and moving on through their various political causes and personal struggles. This method of storytelling has the added benefit (for the likes of me who are clueless about such things) of giving a flavour of New Zealand's political history of the last 30 years. Footage of the girls at rallies, agricultural shows, festivals and even busking on the streets of Wellington is used to excellent effect, keeping the viewer's interest and creating a journey through the careers of two remarkable women.

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Keeping the smiles wide and the toes tapping, the movie is full of Jools and Lynda's songs. Not for nothing have they won Best Country Album twice at the New Zealand Music Awards. It might be a twin thing, but they have beautiful harmony, not to mention impeccable comic timing. Allowing the twins themselves (and of course their cast of colourful Kiwi characters) to be the dominant voices of the documentary in both speech and song was the right way to go, since it is hard to imagine anyone else being able to tell their story as wittily, warmly and genuinely. Parents, partners, friends and colleagues round out the story and give a bit of context for the political and personal aspects of the Topp twins' lives.

Put simply, this is a lovely film. Heartwarming without being schmaltzy, funny and biting without being mean-spirited or slapstick and politically rousing without being the least bit po-faced. The Topp twins richly deserve their place as New Zealand national treasures, and every new fan that Untouchable Girls makes for them. To paraphrase the song the movie is named for - they're untouchable girls, but they touch. Heart and funnybone.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2010
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The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls packshot
A documentary about New Zealand's iconic yodelling lesbian comedian twin sisters, their shows and their activism.
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Director: Leanne Pooley

Starring: Jools Topp, Linda Topp, Helen Clark

Year: 2009

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: New Zealand


Glasgow 2010

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