Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Tony Grisoni and Terry Gilliam
WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW BEFORE SEEING THE FILM.
Not because it has spoilers, but you will understand after you see the film and read this.
*Genre term used by master of body-horror David Cronenberg to describe Tideland
I really did try to resist the urge to post about this film, but I feel that to keep you, the humble reader, unaware of such a hauntingly beautiful film just because it isn't straight up horror would be a crime against the cinematic principles of blogging.
Now, I say that it is a masterful piece of filmmaking, but I can tell you that this film is not for everyone. Don't believe me? Well, when you start up the dvd, a little introduction by director Terry Gilliam (yes, THAT Gilliam) comes up on the screen and the first thing he says is, "Hey, I have a confession. Most of you are not going to like this movie. Some of you, hopefully, will." He also went on to explain that, since the main character of the film is a child, it is best to set aside your adult beliefs and understandings and see everything in the film as a child would. This is the best piece of advice he could possibly offer, because there are many things in Tideland that will either make you cringe in your seat, or giggle with glee.
The film follows the life of Jeliza-Rose, the young daughter of a heroin strung out Nolan (Jeff Bridges), and an uncaring, cynical chronic chocolate eating Jennifer Tilly. After overdosing on methadone "accidentally", the mother dies and Nolan and Jeliza-Rose pack up their bags and move out to his abandoned childhood home in the great Prairies. Jeliza-Rose soon wanders the countryside and befriends a mentally challenged man with an obsession with destroying the great "Land-Shark", a train nearby Rose's home. From therein, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur as Jeliza-Rose's and Dickens' relationship gets closer and closer.
As I mentioned before, Tideland isn't really a horror film at all. In fact, it is hard to call it a genre in the first place. The wikipedia article for the film calls it a "comedy/fantasy/thriller" film. No one, not even the director, is sure what genre this film truly lies in, because it all depends on how you view the movie. For everything that happens, I saw it as an extremely dark comedy, blending my adult and child-like views. However, one night after watching it, I have come to the conclusion that it is a horror movie in disguise. The second you snap out of the trance Gilliam wants you to be in, you realize how disturbing and terrifying the world Jeliza-Rose lives in really is. Think about it. She NEVER had an honest childhood, the little part of it she did have she spent helping her dad shoot up on heroin and getting berated by her mother. Whenever she could actually indulge in the life of a child, she reads "Alice in Wonderland" not because it is a fantastical read, but for the fact that it connects with her life so much. She wants to escape to a world of fantasy, she wants to chase the white rabbit, and she wants to see if there is anything more to life than what she is getting. Her obsession with the story eventually leads to the whole "blurring lines" part of the movie, and a lot of messed up and disturbing things happened because of it, that of which I can't mention without spoiling anything.
I went into this film with the eyes of a child, and after it ended I finally saw all the horrors that the eyes of an adult would see. The message of the movie is a bit unclear, and it is rather artistic both visually and emotionally. This film will require you to think it out after one viewing, and will call for a couple more viewings to fully make sense of it all. Everything about this film tied in so well with each other (the characters, the setting, the dialogue, acting, etc) that I was both disturbed and giggly throughout. It's eerie, it's creepy, it's funny, and it’s a mish-mash of many other emotions.
Tideland is a piece gold hidden deep among the sands of cinema; you have to sift through all the other grains to find the treasure. The film is relatively unknown outside of Canada and Europe, and it actually received more negative criticism than praise. A lot of this came from the controversial subject matter, which included the developing intimate relationship between a mentally challenged adult and a ten year old girl. It was often called a rubbish piece of exploitation as well. Pretty much very few of the critical audience had anything nice to say, but when was the last time you cared for what Entertainment Weekly or Roeper said about a film? Do yourself a favor, DON'T read any reviews before going into this film. Simply go in with an open mind, and the eye of a child and I bet you will see a fantastically disturbing, and strangely heartwarming fairy-tale by a master of the craft, Terry Gilliam.
Screenshot of the film
The exact moment when Jeliza-Rose's lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur.
Possibly symbolizing that her dad is the "White Rabbit" she follows down the rabbit hole.