Saturday, October 18, 2014
Based on the novel by Mitch Cullen, Tideland is the story of a young girl who goes to her grandmother's house with her father following her mother’s death as she embarks into a fantasy world to escape her dreary life. Directed by Terry Gilliam and screenplay by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, the film is an exploration into the life of a young girl as she seeks to create a fantasy world amidst the chaos of her troubled family life. Starring Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jennifer Tilly, and Jeff Bridges. Tideland is an enchanting but very flawed film from Terry Gilliam.
The film follows the life of a young girl who goes to Texas with her drug-addict musician father following her mother’s death as she retreats into a world of fantasy with her doll heads. It’s a film that plays into this world of death as this young woman named Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is someone with a vivid approach to imagination as she surrounds herself with doll heads while meeting eccentric characters during her stay in this house in the middle of the Texan fields. Especially as her imagination finds her drifting further away from reality as well as what is really happening to her father and who the people she meets really are. The film’s screenplay follows much the life of Jeliza-Rose as she lives with her drug addict parents where her father Noah (Jeff Bridges) was a once famous musician whose career is all but washed up as they both have to tend to Jeliza-Rose’s lazy mother (Jennifer Tilly) until she dies of an overdose.
Upon going to Texas where Jeliza-Rose retreats to her fantasy world, she meets a mentally-challenged young man named Dickens (Brendan Fletcher) and his strange taxidermist sister Dell (Janet McTeer). The story becomes weirder where it would meander at times as it often follows Jeliza-Rose’s world of imagination and her time with Dickens as it sometimes go on for a little too long. Especially as the story becomes less plot-driven and much looser as it would slow the story down though there are moments where Terry Gilliam and Tony Grisoni try to infuse a lot of humor. While the relationship between Jeliza-Rose and Dickens is quite creepy and discomforting, it plays into the weird aspects of the film as it showcases how removed Jeliza-Rose is with the real world.
Gilliam’s direction is very stylish in the way he creates a film that is a fantasy but from a much smaller scale. Shot largely in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada as Texas, the film does have this sense of beauty in its location where Jeliza-Rose can roam around by herself. Even as the location has a bit of fantasy where it feels very removed from the dark world that Jeliza-Rose lives in as her grandmother’s house is a place of ruin and abandonment. Much of Gilliam’s compositions involve a lot of slanted angles to play into the weird tone of the film with his use of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots. While there are some fantasy sequences that occur, Gilliam is unable to really keep things going due to the looseness of the story where some of the moments in the film tend to drag on for too long. Even in the actions of Dell and Dickens as it sometimes get too weird for its own good. Overall, Gilliam creates a worthwhile but troubled film about a young girl escaping into her world of fantasy.
Cinematographer Nicola Percorini does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic look of the exterior locations to the usage of stylish lighting schemes for the interior scenes in day and night. Editor Lesley Walker does superb work in the editing in creating a few montages while playing to the film‘s offbeat tone with some stylish cuts. Production designer Jasna Stefanovic, with set decorator Sara McCudden and art director Anastasia Marano, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Jeliza-Rose and her father lives in as well as the house that Dickens and Dell live in.
Costume designers Mario Davignon and Delphine White do amazing work with the stylish clothes of the characters including the costumes that Dell wears. Visual effects supervisor Richard Bain does nice work with the visual effects such as a few fantasy scenes involving Dickens‘ submarine and the doll heads of Jeliza-Rose. Sound editor James Mather does terrific work with the sound work from the sound of the squirrel to other sound effects that play outside of the house where reality would creep in. The film’s music by Jeff and Mychael Danna is wonderful for its orchestral-driven score as it feature some somber, piano-based pieces to more offbeat cuts to play into the film’s humor.
The casting by Deirdre Bowen is brilliant as it features a few notable small roles from Dylan Taylor as a farm boy who brings food to Dell, Wendy Anderson as the voice of the squirrel that Jeliza-Rose encounters, and Jennifer Tilly in a very wild performance as Jeliza-Rose’s trashy, chocolate-eating mother. Brendan Fletcher is terrific as Dickens as this mentally-impaired young man who intrigues Jeliza-Rose in their love of imagination as he fears a monster that often lurks around. Janet McTeer is fantastic as Dell as this woman who is blind in one eye as she is a very eccentric figure who dresses like a witch as it’s a role that is both comical and terrifying.
Jeff Bridges is excellent as Jeliza-Rose’s father Noah as this musician whose time has come and gone as he resigns himself into his addiction to heroin while helping Jeliza-Rose in any way he can. Finally, there’s Jodelle Ferland in a remarkable performance as Jeliza-Rose as this girl with a great sense of imagination as she tries to retreat into her fantasy world while dealing with some of the dark encounters of reality as Ferland also voices the doll head friends she has.
Tideland is a pretty good though flawed film from Terry Gilliam. While it has a great cast and some amazing technical work, it’s a film that tries to be a lot of things but ends up being a bit flat in its approach to being weird. Still, there’s moments in the film that showcases Gilliam’s fascination with imagination and its battle with reality. In the end, Tideland is a terrific but messy film from Terry Gilliam.
Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - 12 Monkeys - Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - The Zero Theorem - The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam
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