Drama Fantasy Adventure
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2nd Feb 07
When her mother dies from a heroin overdose, Jeliza-Rose travels with her father to a rural farm, where she discovers a world of fireflies, home-made submarines and talking squirrels.
Hooray, Terry Gilliam is back! After years in the wilderness, whether chasing the lost Don Quixote up La Mancha, or grimly arguing with the Weinstein brothers, the uncompromising director has finally returned with a film crafted in his own unique vision. Yes, Tideland is pure Gilliam, back up close and personal, back to the deep, dark and fantastical days of Brazil or Fear and Loathing…. Except this time there’s no heroic Robert de Niro, or drugged-up Johnny Depp, this time the tale is told through the eyes of a little girl.
12 year old Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) lives at home with her junkie parents (Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly), but when her mother dies from a heroin overdose, Noah decides to take Jeliza-Rose on a trip out of the city and off to their rural homestead amidst the cornfields. But not before getting Jeliza to prepare him a quick fix first of course.
When they finally get there after a long train journey, Noah becomes increasingly distant (“on vacation”), which leaves Jeliza-Rose plenty of time to explore the local area with the heads of four dolls (Mustique, Baby Blonde, Glitter Gal and Sateen Lips) to keep her company. She begins to create her own fantasies, and it’s only when she meets her two neighbouring oddballs – a mentally-challenged man Dickens (Brendan Fletcher) and his beekeeping sister Dell (Janet McTeer) - that Jeliza is forced to confront both reality and her own imaginations before they collide like a head-on train collision…
Based on the novel by Mitch Cullin, Tideland certainly has a languid, literary feel to it, but there’s no denying that; a) visually it looks great, and b) the acting pretty much throughout is superb. Young Jodelle Ferland is saddled with a huge responsibility in carrying this movie, and she more than stands up to the task with a terrific performance. With the focus firmly on her for most of the movie, Jodelle is captivating; especially considering she also provided the voices for all four of her talking doll head companions. It is probably the best child acting performance since that kid who could see dead people, but was really only a robot who wanted to see his mum one last time.
Brendan Fletcher also puts in a great performance as the backward adult-child who lives close by, his wonder and charm ensuring his frequent ticks and stutters never becoming annoying. It is he that manages to get closest to Jeliza in the film, and their playfulness is natural, none more so than the slightly uncomfortable scene they share on the bed. Jeff Bridges is, well, Jeff Bridges, but he has fun with whatever screen time he has (think Dead Dark Side Dude), and Jennifer Tilly pops up in a shrieking cameo that lasts as long as it should.
But, Jodelle Ferland aside, this is essentially Terry Gilliam’s movie (with a dash of Cullin and co-screenwriter Tony Grisoni). Effectively drifting through the realms of reality and fantasy, Gilliam is let loose to really just have a play. The outdoor settings seem to have given him a breath of fresh air, and his customary swooping off-kilter camera angles feel even more poetic out here in the golden swaying cornfields and endless deep blue skies. He also really lets loose with a couple of imagination sequences that are just a pure delight to behold; the scene where Jordelle swims inside the house being particularly impressive.
Of course, this being a Gilliam film, it can’t resist taking a few subversive swipes. Although aimed at (and will no doubt be enjoyed by) children, Tideland does contain it’s fair share of shocking imagery that includes drug-taking (with a young girl preparing the fix), stuffed and unstuffed corpses, insanity and the afore-mentioned ‘kissing’ scene between Jeliza-Rose and Dickens. In fact, at one screening at the Cambridge Film Festival earlier this year, Gilliam was sadly unsuccessful at smuggling in a 12 year old kid to see the film, despite it receiving a 15 certificate. He just wanted to prove a point, that Tideland is at heart a kid’s film, albeit one told from the perspective of a 65 year old film director with a fantastically dark vision.
Admittedly, this film is not going to be for everyone. Some people will no doubt walk out of the cinema shrugging their shoulders complaining that it went on too long and that nothing really happened anyway. And whilst there may be some fair criticism to the length (it does stretch its legs somewhat in the mid-section), there’s certainly a lot going on, not just on the screen, but also beneath the surface, especially down that rabbit hole.
A sure-fire Gilliam-fan pleaser, Tideland is at the very least a film to make you think, which is never a bad thing. Dark, surreal, funny, slightly indulgent at times, but always optimistic, Tideland will no doubt divide opinions, but if you’re prepared to take Jeliza-Rose’s hand and travel with wonder through her imaginations, you’ll be in for a treat. Gilliam has found his inner child, and apparently it has turned out to be a little girl. Amen to that.
For more information on Tideland, which is released in UK cinemas on August 11th, visit the official website at www.tidelandthemovie.com.
To view the trailer, click on one of the links below;
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