Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reviewin' Fool

Tideland - Terry Gilliam's latest movie: The one that about 75% of critics thought was atrociously awful, and the other 25% thought was a work of genius. Yes, it's somewhat divisive. In the opening scene, the main character of the film, a 9-year-old girl, cooks up a hit of heroin for her junkie father, and then helps untie his arm after he shoots up, and puts his cigarette out for him so he doesn't burn the house down as he sinks into a stupor. By the end of the film, she will have spent time nestled in the loving arms of his decomposing corpse, made friends with a strange woman with an uncomfortable obsession with taxidermy, and played kissing games with a brain-damaged adult male. Gilliam has described the film as "Alice In Wonderland meets Psycho", which seems appropriate. The film depicts a group of people who seem about one or two steps away from becoming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre family.

One thing that amazes me is the number of critics who completely missed the point. This is amazing because, before the movie begins, Gilliam himself appears onscreen and speaks directly to the audience (warning them that "many of you will hate this movie"), and he explicitly states the point he was trying to make, which is that children are more resilient than most people nowadays give them credit for. "They're designed to survive," he says, "and when you drop them, they usually bounce." Where many of Gilliam's other films deal with the tension between fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, this one is about the tension between childhood innocence and adulthood. As such, there are things in it that are horrifying when seen with an adult's perspective, that are... well, let's just say "less horrifying" when viewed by an innocent child.

Personally, I would rank it somewhere between awful and genius. It's not Gilliam's best film (that would be a toss-up between Brazil and Twelve Monkeys), but it's less disappointing than his previous movie, The Brothers Grimm, and I'm frankly mystified by the extreme level of animosity some critics seemed to have toward it.

3 comments:

Chameleon said...

Excellent review and very helpful. I was so disappointed by The Brothers Grimm that I didn't make the trip to the cinema to see Tideland. To me, Brazil is an absolute masterpiece, a work of genius unsurpassed by his later works.

Salvius said...

On the DVD commentary track for The Brothers Grimm, Gilliam basically admits that he didn't really like the script, and that he essentially just took the job for the money, and also to try and demonstrate to the Hollywood powers-that-be that he could still make a movie that would (hopefully) be at least somewhat financially successful, since that would make it easier to talk them into giving him money to make the movies he actually wanted to make.

Chameleon said...

That is really quite sad.
I forgot to say earlier that I too like 12 Monkeys, his other great film.