‘Tideland’ opens with co-writer/director Terry Gilliam (‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ ‘Brazil’) telling us that many of us will hate his film while some of us will love it and some won’t know what to think. He goes on to tell us that at age 64 he’s found his inner child who just happens to be a girl. The first message seems redundant to me, as it can really be applied to most films (yes, there are some lost souls out there who hate ‘Casablanca’). The second message however, I’m fairly certain is unique to ‘Tideland.’ In today’s world, Gilliam’s inner child bears a laundry list of clinical baggage. His message ends with “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” and the screen goes black. Who knows how long he’d have gone on? Maybe he’s thanking us for being one of the twenty-six people who saw this film, one of the worst reviewed films of 2006, which played in theatres for about fifteen minutes.
Jeliza-Rose meets her only neighbors, Dell (Janet McTeer) and Dickens (Brendan Fletcher). Dell is a delusional one-eyed taxidermist who seems to have been Noah’s former lover. Dickens suffers not from epilepsy but from its treatment, which if I understand correctly is kind of like a lobotomy in his case. For this reason, he and the 12 year-old Jeliza-Rose are intellectually compatible. Jeliza-Rose’s doll-head friends seem perfectly logical to Dickens while his Monster-Shark hunting submarine (made from junk and covered by a tarp) is not a stretch for Jeliza-Rose.
If Gilliam really wants us to see this film through the eyes of a child, I don’t understand why Ferland gives the performance she does. She plays Jeliza-Rose as if she as an actress is in on something her character and audience aren’t, like she’s making fun of Jeliza-Rose. Her eyes though, are large and expressive, making her a great choice for characters that are either innocent or demonic. Jeff Bridges unfortunately is wasted as he spends at least 75% of the film as a first rotting then later preserved, wig-sporting corpse.
The DVD has no commentary, which is a shame. I feel that Gilliam has more explaining to do. His introduction wasn’t quite enough.
While I can’t completely right off ‘Tideland’ as a creepy, exploitative mess, I can’t recommend it either. Though I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it.