Sunday, April 29, 2012
Tideland (2005), more in the style of those latter two movies, is distinctively Gilliam. A borderline horror movie in the vein of Psycho or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Tideland plays as an extremely warped and some might say troubling variation of Alice in Wonderland, and like some of Gilliam's earlier work, it's about childhood and imagination and how those can be shields against the hardships of reality. Tideland also shows how too much imagination and denial of reality can drag someone into deep trouble. It's a hallucinatory meditation on the danger of innocence.
In his introduction on the DVD, Gilliam says many people will hate this movie, many will love it, and many will not know how to react, and he's right. This is a challenging, alienating, dark, and often unpleasant film, especially when you consider the main character is a young girl. We see her perform many questionable actions: preparing the heroin for her father to inject, dressing up his corpse with a wig and makeup, and, in probably the most unsettling part of the movie, becoming the "girlfriend" of Dickens, who must at least be 30. We even see the two kiss. We see Jeliza-Rose engage in all this behavior without understanding what it means. Without any parental or adult guidance, she's left to her fantasies, and this distorts her perception of reality.
I think my problem with Tideland is that there's too much of it. Gilliam is a famously indulgent filmmaker when it comes to style, but at two hours in length, Tideland is at least a half hour too long and repetitious. There's not enough story to justify the running time. I took similar issue with Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas; the same point is hammered home repeatedly without much variation while the on-screen depravity piles on. What begins as shocking but intriguing gradually becomes tedious and merely uncomfortable.