TIDELAND is the film that Terry Gilliam went off to make while
caught up in the struggles with studio executives over the making of
THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Author Mitch Cullen sent his cult novel to
the filmmaker hoping for a quote, which was duly and pithily provided:
"F--king brilliant!" Unfortunately, one cannot say the same for the
movie version which Gilliam directed and co-wrote with Tony Grisoni.

The film set in modern times focuses on the interior life of
a pre-teen girl named Jeliza-Rose (newcomer Jodelle Ferland who
give it her all). The youngster is being raised by her junkie parents,
a past-his-prime rock star (Jeff Bridges, obviously doing a favor for
the director) and his groupie girlfriend (an almost unrecognizable
Jennifer Tilly). Dad takes "vacations" nightly -- after injecting heroin
prepared for him by Jeliza-Rose. Mom is a chocoholic who also dabbles
in drugs and dies after ingesting Methadone. Tilly makes the most
of her death scene, but I had trouble with it only because the cause
reminded me of the recent real-life death of Anna Nicole Smith's son.

With Mom out of the way, Dad and daughter hit the road to
travel back to Dad's ancestral home. It's not exactly clear where they
are -- probably somewhere in Texas or Oklahoma, but Dad's childhood
home is now dilapidated, yet surrounded by fields of honey-colored
wheat fields. It doesn't take the press notes to see that Gilliam is
trying to invoke the feelings of Andrew Wyeth's famous painting
"Christina's World."

Soon Dad has gone off to meet Mom and Jeliza-Rose is on her
own -- along with four dolls heads that she annoyingly voices and
whom she claims are her friends. Before long, though, she has
befriended a local teenager -- an epileptic who has undergone brain
surgery named Dickens (Brendan Fletcher). He lives with his black-clad
sister Dell (Janet McTeer -- one has to ask who the hell is making her
career decisions -- it all started so promisingly and has gone nowhere
fast). It turns out that Dell is a taxidermist who shares a past with
Jeliza-Rose's father.

While there were occasional scenes that had a lovely "look"
to them -- the bucolic shots of the amber waves of grain (as it were),
the film grated on my nerves. One is supposed to feel for Jeliza-Rose
who has been on her own most of her life and supposedly has created
a rich interior life -- but the flights of her imagination that we see
are scary -- and not in a good way. She's clearly unstable and when
she grows up will probably end up in a mental hospital. (What will
happen to young Jodelle Ferland remains to be seen -- she does
exhibit talent -- the writing and the concept of the part defeat her
best efforts.

TIDELAND is perhaps one of the most painful films I've had
to sit through this year, partly because it's difficult to see a good
director like Gilliam get bogged down in such a morass. Perhaps it
may be best to treat the whole thing like a bad dream and forget
all about it.

        Rating:                F
        MPAA Rating:       R for bizarre and disturbing content,
                                         including drug use, sexuality, and
                                         gruesome situations - all involving
                                         a child, and for some language

        Running time:      122 mins.

                Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.