Tideland (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Terry Gilliam
viewed: 04/03/07

Terry Gilliam makes interesting films.  Some of them are quite great (Brazil (1985) & Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and some of them are fairly bad (The Brothers Grimm (2005)). He is attracted to bizarre and interesting subject matter and has his total historical pedigree coming out of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the lone American, the animator, art director, director.

Tideland is a gruesome, gothic, freakshow of a story.  I vaguely recall someone reading the book many years ago and praising it.  A young girl, pre-teen, plays with doll’s heads as her parents shoot heroin and methodone (which she helps her dad prepare), until they die.  She is abandoned by their death in the middle of nowhere, with a bizarre neighbor and her mentally damaged brother, who have as many issues as her parents had.  I think the mummification of Jeff Bridges by his former lover is among some of the most over-the-top things that I have seen in films, played somewhat for comedy, but with some sense of emotional realism, I think.

The weirdest thing, and I don’t know if this was in the original theatrical showing of the film or simply added to the DVD, is the opening presentation by Terry Gilliam himself, addressing the viewers and saying that this is a vision through a child’s eyes and that some people will hate it and others may love it, but that he “found the child within himself” in the process of making the film and that it was “a little girl”.  The sincerity value of this is odd, but struck me as genuine.  This is pretty much a cult film to be, with some huge overacting by Jodelle Ferland, the youngster who has to carry this film, and the campy acting by everyone else.  I hate to say it but it might have been interesting to see this film directed by Lasse Hallström or something.

At the same time, Tideland was panned by critics and given very low marks.  I have to say that it was both better and worse than I expected but maybe more better than worse.  There are some nice shots of the countryside and some interesting moments and sequences.  I actually thought it would be more visually fantastical rather than just a film in which everybody acts real crazy all the time.  It made me think of Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy (1997), which I really really liked at the time, much better than this film, but it was also the story of a child in a fantasy world, including living with the corpse of a father for some time.  It’s amazing, but maybe that could become its own unique sub-sub-sub-sub genre.  Crazy children living with dead parents.

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