Terry Gilliam had become more of a non-director than a director: his trouble with making his Don Quijote movie was so epic they made a movie about it (Lost in La Mancha). So Tideland came nothing too soon.
But what to think of Tideland?
I’ve just seen it and I think it’s hard to make up my mind.
There are good things and plenty of them at that: first and foremost this is the sort of movie that seems designed for Gilliam to direct (the ‘reality’ in this movie is very spacy and eerie) and he does a great job.
The casting is tremendous and the make-up is brilliant: some of them are hard to recognize. Apart from Jodelle Ferland of course, the young girl who is one of the first finds of this century: Jodelle looks as sweet as she looks weird. Either she is a great promise for the movies of the future, or she’s one kid whose imagination I wouldn’t like to be in. Jodelle could also be seen in Silent Hill earlier in the year.
As for the story: Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle) is the child of two junkies. Her father tells her weird stories and she prepares his drugs. But don’t worry: Gilliam makes this look much better than Asia Argento ever could.
When her mother suddenly dies her father takes her on a wild trip to an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere (which used to belong to Jeliza-Rose’s late grandmother). Soon her father dies of an overdose and Jeliza-Rose is all alone with her four dolls (who don’t have a body, just heads), a creepy neighbour with one blind eye (stung by bees) and her mentally-retarded brother.
My main problem with this is both “How much madness can you take?” and “Why doesn’t Gilliam take this further?” This movie is far out (yeah, my lingo is groovy), but on the other hand Gilliam treats it as the most normal thing in the world (but it doesn’t become the alternative dimension you’d find in a Monty Python episode).
Something I found particularly irritating is that this blocks the movie from getting on with business. As I’ve told you, the house Jeliza-Rose lives in belonged to her late grandmother. We hear her father tell this to the girl and she’s telling it first to her weird neighbour and later to her mentally-retarded friend. Okay already, we get the point! I don’t mind repetition but if it leads nowhere, there really isn’t much a point in repeating this bit of information. It’s a Gilliam movie, not a phone-in game.
However, the movie succeeds in creating an alternative reality. That not more is done with this working concept is a damn shame. Still, Gilliam gets a chance to show his directing skills in a wonderful setting and the cast is very good.
Tideland is not what it could’ve been, but at least it has its own face.
P.S. Tideland has been released in the Lowlands before it’ll be released in bigger countries. It’ll open in the UK and the US in August, but American viewers will have to look carefully: it will only get a limited release. That Gilliam wasn’t bothered about his US release can be seen if you read the writing on the wall (literally).