Talk about a one-for-them, one-for-me strategy: Following last year’s pedestrian Miramax studio washout The Brothers Grimm (reportedly marred by Weinstein interference), Terry Gilliam does an about-face with Tideland, the type of uninhibited, boldly idiosyncratic indie fantasy one might expect from the oddball director. Alas, such unrestrained inventiveness is both the blessing and the curse of Gilliam’s wack-job of a film, whose anti-conventionality (and anti-commercialism) is a breath of eccentric air even as its narrative and stylistic lack of self-control ultimately results in something of a catastrophe. Crashing and burning with brazen, headstrong recklessness, the former Pythonite’s latest (adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel) is a gonzo riff on Alice in Wonderland drowning in drug abuse, talking squirrels, rotting corpses, pedophilia, and decapitated doll heads which are worn on the fingers of—and imaginatively engaged in conversation by—young Jeliza-Rose (Silent Hill‘s Jodelle Ferland). After the fatal overdose of her monstrous mother Queen Gunhilda (Jennifer Tilly, seemingly auditioning for the sequel to The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things), Jeliza-Rose is spirited away by her fading rock star father Noah (Jeff Bridges) to his remote childhood prairie home, where she continues to dutifully cook and administer Noah’s regular heroin injections until the old junkie croaks. With Dad decaying in the living room, Jeliza-Rose is left to her own inventive (read: insane) devices, concocting fanciful games to play with her quartet of talking toys as well as Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), a mentally unhinged, seizure-prone neighbor. Also factoring into the bizarre equation is Dickens’s one-eyed sister Dell (a great Janet McTeer), who may have once known Noah and now has taxidermy-related plans for his carcass, though it’s Ferland’s alternately magnificent and maddening off-the-wall lead performance that’s most in tune with Tideland‘s acid-enhanced nightmarishness. Yet employing a tsunami of askew camera angles and fish-eye lenses that are less inspired than simply insistent, Gilliam turns his film into a phantasmagoric funhouse bereft of rhythm, basic coherence, and, finally, much in the way of fun. Fittingly ending with a train wreck, Tideland careens about wildly to only slightly rewarding effect, its out-there excessiveness eventually conveying not the resilience of youthful imaginations but, rather, the limits of unchecked auteurism.
- Terry Gilliam
- Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni
- Jodelle Ferland, Jeff Bridges, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jennifer Tilly
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