I've been a fan of Terry Gilliam for quite a while. From Monty Python, through Brazil, to 12 Monkeys. I find his vision and sense for the absurd to be amazing. He never fails to make me laugh. The first time I heard that he was adapting Don Quixote for the screen I was elated. When I heard that it had fizzled a week into production I was crushed. I watched enthralled as he knowingly became a reflection of Quixote in the documentary of that film Lost in La Mancha. I am a Gilliam fan because I know that he consistently swings for the fence. Whether he knocks it out of the park or strikes out, you never know, but I don't think he's ever just "phoned it in". I was surprised when I came across Tideland. He made it in 2005. I'd never even heard about it. Like me it seemed to only be popular in Asia. Well, I decided to give it a try. It is the story of a girl (Jeliza-Rose) of about 8 or 9 whose been raised by her abusive and neglectful junkie parents. It starts with a scene where Jeliza-Rose cooks up a dose of heroine for her father (Jeff Bridges) to shoot up. This got my attention. A few scenes later Jeliza's mother (Jennifer Tilly) dies. Jeliza's father panics and flees with Jeliza. They go to his dead mother's abandoned farm house. There they setup house. Not two scenes later, you see him shooting up again. Jeliza goes off and plays by herself while he quietly overdoses. He was such a neglectful parent to begin with that she fails to realize or at least acknowledge this for the rest of the movie. The next 30 minutes of the movie involves her interacting with and trying to gain the attention of his rotting corpse. That gets us about 45 minutes into the movie. Things only get weirder from there. Let me just say that the events of the rest of the movie are hard to describe. Her father is eventually taxidermied by the neighbors and she is rescued when the train that runs by her house is dynamited by those same neighbors.
Gilliam begins the movie with what feels like a plea to be understood. He says that the story is told through the eyes of a child and he asks that we set aside the qualms and prejudices that we may have built up since we were her age. He then admits that for those who view the movie, there will be three groups. Those of love it, those who hate it and those who don't really know what to think of it. I guess I fall into each of those categories. I love it because it is so Gilliam, and you can tell that he is swinging for the fence in this one. I'm not sure I hate it, but it isn't his best work. Finally, I am a little confused, but that may just be that it was late and I was sleepy and distracted while watching it. Anyway, if you are a Gilliam fan this might be one for you. If you aren't a Gilliam fan you will hate this. Finally, if you don't know who Terry Gilliam is, please watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Twelve Monkeys or Brazil or Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail first.