Terry Gilliam's Tideland is the Worst Movie of the Year
by Alex Billington
October 26, 2006
Editor's Note: The rating for this film is 1 star, not -1.
Tideland is the worst movie of 2006. Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) has recently taken a headfirst dive into sheer failure, previously with last year's The Brothers Grimm and now with Tideland. As a rule I will sit through a bad movie and soak in the hard work that went into creating it, but I was pretty close to walking out of this one. Tideland is such a deplorable movie of confusion and utterly boring scenes, that when it ends after two hours, you'll be more than happy to leave the theater at a full-paced gasping-for-air run.
Tideland stars Jodelle Ferland as Jeliza-Rose, a child of two junkie parents. After her mother passes away, Jeliza-Rose's ex-rock-and-roll father (Jeff Bridges) takes her to his old abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. Jeliza-Rose spends her days roaming the open plains nearby as her multiple personalities take on the roles of finger-puppet doll-heads and her father goes on one final never-ending drug "vacation." She eventually encounters her neighbors, Dell (Janet McTeer) and Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), both near-crazy individuals that fit right into her insane fantasy world. Tideland tries to be a fairy tale, but gets caught up too much in a sadistic reality and doesn't go much further beyond. It's complete with a talking squirrel and is the complete opposite of what its tagline, "The squirrels made it seem less lonely," would suggest.
I'll admit that Terry Gilliam is an incredible storyteller; he just doesn't have the right story to keep attentions. Tideland is so weird and so confusing that it borders on the edge of complete boredom, not the edge of "the tideland." It does deliver a wide-eyed experience into a child's endless imagination, but I don't think anyone can make sense of this ridiculous train wreck of a film. It's even more disturbing than the latest installment of the Saw series due out this upcoming Friday, featuring Jeliza-Rose cuddling with her deceased and hollowed father's remains.
The only rightly-satisfying elements of Tideland are its camerawork and its acting. Many of the camera angles are as twisted as the movie's plot. Gilliam uses a wide-angle and off-axis view that presents a very distinctive look at the rather dull environment. The young Jodelle Ferland takes a gigantic step away from the horror movie Silent Hill earlier this year and puts on a deep-south accent and imaginative mindset. Separately, Brendan Fletcher contributes a noteworthy, strikingly realistic portrayal of a quite retarded Dickens. I feel a bit awkward mentioning how horrible this movie was when I know that Brendan Fletcher put forth a valiant effort in playing his part; Fletcher deserves commendation for his work.
Despite being a boring child's play and a lame attempt at fantasy, I respect Gilliam's creations and capabilities in exploring this very imaginative world. In the end Tideland really is a disaster of a movie that offers two hours of confusing and unsettling playtime with a young girl and her finger-puppet doll's heads. The only reason to ever sit through this painful experience is to see Jodelle Ferland's marginally skillful performance.