Tideland (Movie) Review: A mesmerizing and flawed fantasy



‘Tideland’ is one of Terry Gilliam’s most polarizing works-and deservedly so.

Arrow Video will be releasing Terry Gilliam’s Tideland on August 14th.

Terry Gilliam’s directorial resume is as confusing as it is impressive. His “Trilogy of Imagination” has received near universal acclaim while Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is incredibly polarizing. Released in 2005, Tideland has deservedly fallen into the latter category. 

Tideland is the story of Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) and her adventures one summer in rural Texas. Jeliza is forced to basically fend for herself after the loss of both her parents. The young girl wanders the area with the decapitated Barbie doll heads she places on her fingertips as her only companions. During her journeys, she meets new people and deals with her growing madness.

Gilliam is a master at creating fanciful settings and outlandish worlds and Tideland is no different. At its core, the story is about a young girl who descends deeper into a fantasy world of her own creating to escape the horrors of the real world made by her drug addled parents. Gilliam uses odd angles and unique costumes to turn the Texas countryside into a strange fantasy world. The camera zooms in and out and characters are shot askew to further add to the strangeness of everything that is going on. Just looking at still shots of the film show that something is not right.Tideland has a relatively small cast and the majority of the work is handled excellently by Ferland. As Jeliza, Ferland is not only tasked to play the part of someone who is losing touch with reality, she also needs to play different parts of her own psyche. The actress does this incredibly well, giving different voices and personalities to each severed head. Her voice acting for the head named Mystique is especially well done.

Ferland plays Jeliza with a believability that is scary. Watching her speak to her “unconcious” father and still go out and play in the tall grass speaks to how deep into her own world Jeliza has gone. Her increasingly longer conversations with the doll heads become so unsettling it is almost impossible to pity Jeliza. This is a powerful performance.

The story is not without its issues, however. The opening of the movie is interminably long. After presenting Jeliza’s awful home life and showing how she deals with it, the movie almost comes to a standstill. When the plot is ready to advance, it sinks to levels of toilet humor that may work in small doses, but seems out of a place in this movie. The joke also continues long after it has overstayed its welcome.Once Jeliza and her father Noah (Jeff Bridges channeling the Dude) arrive in Texas, Tideland still takes time getting to the point. Jeliza is becoming more comfortable in her fantasy world, but too much time is spent on this. The film comes off as very self-indulgent during these moments.

The most difficult thing to watch in Tideland is the burgeoning romance between Jeliza and her new mentally impaired friend Dickens. Initially, watching the two become closer is cute. They have both lived troubled lives and escaped into their own fantasy worlds to make it through their days. As is to be expected, Jeliza develops a crush as the two become closer.

As her crush escalates to the next level, the film becomes uncomfortable. Though, the film never gives her exact age, Jeliza is a child who looks to be around twelve while Dickens is a full grown man. Jeliza pursues a deeper relationship that Dickens reciprocates, including kissing on the lips (albeit, lightly) and a scene in which the he mounts the young girl as she lays in bed. The scenes seem meant to accentuate the fragility of both their minds but the manner in which they play out is disturbing.

Tideland is a beautiful movie that explores madness but cannot seemed to stay focused. Jodelle Ferland’s performance is outstanding and Terry Gilliam does great work as director. The movie is worth watching, but be prepared to be frustrated and confused.

Blu-ray Extras

  • Commentary by writer-director Terry Gilliam and co-writer Tony Grisoni
  • Introduction by director Terry Gilliam
  • Getting Gilliam, a 45-minute documentary on the making of Tideland by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice)
  • The Making of Tideland featurette
  • Filming Green Screen featurette with commentary by Gilliam
  • Interviews with Terry Gilliam, producer Jeremy Thomas and actors Jeff Bridges, Jodelle Ferland and Jennifer Tilly
  • Deleted scenes with commentary by Gilliam
  • B-roll footage
  • Gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
Tideland (Movie)
Is it good?
Tideland is beautiful to look at while being anchored by an outstanding performance from Jodelle Ferland.
Jodelle Ferland is amazing as a young girl trying to cope with a difficult life
Beautiful direction by Terry Gilliam
Pacing issues. Sometimes the movie does not seem to know what it wants to do
Uncomfortable love story between Jeliza and Dickens
7.5
Good
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