I love Terry Gilliam with all of my heart. The crazy bastard has a singular, warped vision that no other director can touch. I also appreciate his adventurous spirit and his refusal to play things safe.
So it breaks my heart to tell you that Tideland stands as the worst film of his career. Mind you, Gilliam's worst film is better than plenty of hack directors' best films, but things have definitely gone a little backwards as of late. First, his Don Quixote movie failed to come to fruition, then he made the so-so The Brothers Grimm, and now there's this unfortunate misstep.
The film, based on the novel by Mitch Cullin, is sort of a riff on Alice in Wonderland, with Jodelle Ferland playing Jeliza-Rose, the daughter of two heroin addicts (Jennifer Tilly and Jeff Bridges). Jeliza-Rose has created a fantasy world where severed doll heads are her friends. (Ferland does a nice job providing each doll head with a voice.) When mom dies from an overdose, dad takes his daughter back to his abandoned childhood home, where he also croaks.
That doesn't mean Jeff Bridges leaves the film early. He winds up playing a corpse for most of his screen time, up until the point when a crazy neighbor embalms him (whilst having sex with the corpse, of course). From there, it's just a Jeff Bridges effigy painted brown.
Ferland is an amusing, if sometimes overbearing, actress. She's given the tough task of holding a rather ridiculous movie together, and the film's failings are not her fault. Brendan Fletcher plays Dickens, a mentally handicapped neighbor who has a rather strange and seductive relationship with the girl. Janet McTeer squawks a lot as Dell, embalmer and doer of corpses.
The basic problem here is that it is just too much. Gilliam shows no restraint with this unpleasantness, and it becomes tedious quite quickly. There are some great visuals, of course, but they are done in by a movie that doesn't know when to stop. It's a mess.
You know what? I didn't give a favorable review to Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but now I've come to like the film. I hope the same happens with this one. When I'm walking around not liking a Gilliam film, I feel that something is truly out of whack in the universe. Perhaps this one will become more tolerable in time--but for now, I really didn't like it.
Special Features: There's a short film called Getting Gilliam by Vincenzo Natali, a fun look at the director during the making of the movie. There are some deleted scenes that are actually better than the ones in the movie, and Gilliam offers up plenty of commentaries.
The first sequence in this film is a rock operetta where the actors sing their parts. A kid playing the young Jack Black lip-synchs along to the music of Tenacious D, and Meat Loaf plays his dad. (Ronnie James Dio also makes a glorious appearance.) If the whole film were done rock-opera style, this might've been one of the greatest movies ever made. As it stands, it's fun to watch, but sometimes, it's a little too conventional for Tenacious D.
It's an origin story, showing us the birth of the world's greatest band featuring Black and sidekick Kyle Gass. I'm thinking diehard D fans probably liked this one less than the uninitiated. Those familiar with the brilliant HBO series and the excellent first album might find the music and visuals a little inferior.
Perhaps I am just too spoiled. Watching it again on DVD, with my expectations lowered, I enjoyed it a little more. (I am changing my initial grade of B- to a straight-up B.) But let me make this clear: A grade short of an A for anything involving the D is unacceptable in my book.
Special Features: There's a kick-ass commentary from Black and Gass, with some very good deleted scenes and featurettes. I bought my disc at Best Buy, and it features an extra disc of special features (more deleted scenes, some fun Internet publicity shorts and some home movies).
Mick Jagger's screen debut was filmed in 1968, but wasn't released until 1970, because it scared the hell out of the studio. They probably thought they were getting a cool rock 'n' roll movie for the kids. Instead, they got a hallucinatory picture about blurred identities, three-way sex and drugs. Way to F' the studio!
Jagger is actually very good as a retired rock star who has a mobster (James Fox) move into his apartment. This film is legendary for its controversial aspects; Jagger allegedly had real sex with co-star Anita Pallenberg, who was the actual girlfriend of Keith Richards. This allegedly made Richards very unhappy.
Special Features: Not a lot, but there is a very cool documentary on the film and its legacy.