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October 2006

by Kam Williams


Distributor: THINKFilm
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriter: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Jennifer Tilly, Janet McTeer
Rated R for profanity, drug use, sexuality, bizarre behavior, disturbing images, and gruesome situations involving a minor. Running time: 120 minutes


Terry Gilliam Directs Nighmarish Cross of Psycho and Alice in Wonderland

Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland), the lonely, little daughter of a couple of strung-out heroin-addicts, has been so neglected by her dysfunctional parents that she was essentially expected to raise herself. Part of the way in which the emotionally-abandoned girl learned to deal with her predicament was by escaping into a parallel universe peopled by colorful characters fabricated by her imagination. Then, when her mother (Jennifer Tilly) dies of an overdose, her father (Jeff Bridges) decides that they should move from the city to the family farmhouse in the country, where Jeliza only ends up even more isolated. There, the traumatized tyke is befriended by a one-eyed witch (Janet McTeer) and the village idiot (Brendan Fletcher), when she’s not retreating deeper into a suspense-filed world of hallucinations involving disembodied dolls, talking squirrels, lightning bugs and freaky fireflies.

This bizarre blend of surrealism and eccentricities supplies the cinematic fuel which feeds Tideland, a macabre fairy tale based on the best seller of the same name by Mitch Cullin. Faithfully-adapted to the screen by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam as a morbid mindbender, the picture might be best described as a kinky cross of Psycho and Alice in Wonderland.

This novel point of departure provides the screen fodder for Tideland, a surprising compelling sitcom, given the silly-sounding premise. Blessed with an endlessly-elliptical script layered with lots of surprises, the movie succeeds due to the efforts of a talented cast which seriously sells the idea that what we’re dealing with is an uncommon, but medically-diagnosed condition. Freaked out by the loss of chest hair and his simultaneous sprouting of breasts, Luke eventually has to adopt a feminine persona, Luca (played by Marieh Delfino), while trying to figure out what the heck is happening to him. Luke/Luca is lost, not knowing whether he/she’s straight, bi, gay or some other undetermined preference? Help arrives in the person of Dr. Sydney Catchadourian (Gina Bellman), a sex therapist who has treated several Tidelandcs before.

Deliberately disturbing, disgusting, and designed with the unshockable in mind, Tideland is strictly recommended for the very open-minded with cast-iron stomachs.

Good (2 stars)