Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tideland (2005)

"Tideland," Terry Gilliam's fantastical horror brain child, is an undeniably original, unmistakably repulsive journey into the life and mind of one troubled little girl (Jodelle Ferland.) To say it outstays it's welcome it an understatement, the film clocks at over two hours and leaves an undeniably bad taste in one's throat. The characters are hard to comprehend, much less like or understand.

   All this would be bad enough without the bizarre intro by Terry Gilliam, who vaguely informs us that children 'bounce back' from situations such as these and tells us 'don't forget to laugh.' But what is there to laugh at in a disgusting horror show such as this?  it's as if Dave Peltzer of 'A Child Called It' fame had promised us a knee-slapping good time.

   Between the role of Jeff Bridges as the girl's junkie father, who sits down in a chair to shoot up, dies, and spends the majority of the movie in various states of decomposition, our prepubescent heroine trading 'silly kisses' and sexual curiousness with a mentally retarded man (Brendon Fletcher,) and Daddy (prior to his death) instructing his daughter to prepare heroin for him, I found very little to laugh at in this revolting freak show.

   The fact that Gilliam expects us to laugh and see this whole travesty through the eyes of a child speaks volumes on the man's mental stability. What does he think we are? Animals. Sub-human cretins who are all-too-eager and willing to laugh at the mental and psychological destruction of a child? Apparently, if Gilliam should have his way, we will be laughing at child endangerment through the eyes of that child, oblivious to the adult consequences of such atrocities. Mmm-kay.

   After her harpy mother (Jennifer Tilly) O.D.'s Jeliza-Rose (Ferland), ten or eleven or so, is swept away from the squalid tenement she calls home by her druggie father (Bridges,) and tries her best to adjust to her new home in her father's childhood house on the massive prairie, far away from anything. When Dad dies, Jeliza-Rose acts much as if he was alive, talking to his corpse and exploring the prairie, where she meets local freak Dell (Janet McTeer) and her brain-damaged brother, Dickens (Fletcher.)

   Dell, who as it happens, bangs the stuttering grocery delivery boy (Dylan Taylor) in exchange for food, takes a liking to Jeliza-Rose and invites her and her doll heads (Jeliza-Rose frequently talks through her collection of severed doll's heads, did I mention that?) to live in her and Dickens' family home.

   "Tideland" often references Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland,' as Jeliza-Rose 'falls down the rabbit hole' from one bizarre situation to another. Although technically well-made in many respects, "Tideland" is yucky, overlong, and had me begging for it to end by the halfway point.

     Jodelle Ferland turns in pretty good performance as Jeliza-Rose (although I found her Southern accent exaggerated) and Brendan Fletcher gives a decent supporting performance as Dickens (who, through no fault of his own, reminded me a bit of Ben Stiller's 'Simple Jack') but overall the film is a fail. I would recommend you watch "Alice" by Jan Svankmajer as a dark take on "Alice in Wonderland" rather than this. It is less sickening and doesn't make you feel like you're watching for hours on end, but hey, that's just me.


  1. Oh God, this movie. I wonder how many times the name "Jeliza-Rose" is said during this movie? I think the fact that Gilliam had to pre-record an excuse for this movie speaks volumes. It was just fucking weird. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who has seen this though. Your review is perfect. :)

  2. I can understand why you did not like this movie, but I found this child's journey through a dark place to be very thought provoking and challenging. Well challenging to us as adults watching this. We like to think of this girl as being a victim because of her horrible parents and situation with being left with no one at such a young age. But she has strength and overcomes these problems with the use of her imagination.Jeliza--Rose(Love that name) reminds me very much of Hushpuppy from "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" because both use their minds and imagination to make their harsh world appear brighter There is nothing wrong with her having conversations with her deceased dad(She's 11. If it helps her grieve. Let her talk to his corpse.) Are you saying you never talked to a family member who has died. As for the issue with the kiss with the older man. The guy in question is mentally at the age of 6 and the whole thing was not done without any high sexual overtones. It was all very innocent Even when she sees Dell having sex with someone. She doesn't know what's going on and chances are neither will any kid who happens to watch that scene. Gilliam did a good adaptation of the book which is very much a children's fable told by someone who has a lot more strength then we like to give them credit for.

    1. Well, I talked to my mom for a long time after she died, but I was content to talk to her spirit out in the ether. :-) I do understand where you're coming from, though. I found this aspect of the movie as disturbing and weird as Sarah did, but I can see that -- in a sense -- this was Jeliza Rose's way of dealing with her loss. Interesting take on the movie, and interesting comparison to Hushpuppy -- I hadn't thought of that.

  3. I'm still not entirely sure how I felt about this movie. I was quite taken with the character of Jeliza Rose and all her quirkiness. But some of this stuff was just too over-the-top fucked up for me.


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