Tideland - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tideland Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 1, 2010
Such an odd and when deeply looked into, a very demented children's story. I don't think there's every going to be a movie again that uses a corpse like it was in this. Terry Gilliam's love for Alice in Wonderland type scenarios really comes through in this, probably the easiest to pick up on. It also reminded me of something by Steinbeck or Twain, mainly the setting and characters. Overall, if you're a fan of Terry Gilliam you'll probably love it. If not, you'll probably just watch it in awe of such madness.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
June 28, 2010
Sometimes it is fun to criticise films: one gets a certain snobbish thrill from kicking seven bells out of the latest Hollywood dreck. But with Tideland, probably Terry Gilliam‚??s least-seen film, such feelings do not come to the fore. This is the kind of film you want to embrace and adore, and you cannot help but admire its director. But it is still found wanting in so many ways; all attempts to justify its strengths ultimately come up short, and its failings are so prominent that they cannot be ignored.

With Tideland and The Brothers Grimm, we have the chalk and cheese of Gilliam‚??s career, in terms of what they represent and the reactions they produce. The Brothers Grimm is the product of endless in-fighting and uneasy compromise; it is the clash of a gifted auteur with heavy-handed producers, resulting in a ham-fasted, third-rate, pedestrian fantasy which barely hangs together. Tideland, meanwhile, is the product of an unlimited imagination, with no test screenings or product deals to worry about. Hence it is confusing, rambling, and at times very tedious, but you are at least satisfied by the presence of rough, artistic edges. Watching The Brothers Grimm produces anger; watching Tideland produces a different feeling, one of admiring disappointment.

Tideland shares a number of features with Pan‚??s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro‚??s masterpiece of fantasy horror. Both are essentially dark fairy tales with young female protagonists. Both start in positions of extreme darkness (the Spanish Civil War and a family of smack-heads) and then get steadily darker. And both are visually stunning, combining grim realism with stunning special effects and dreamy surrealism to create something truly unique. But Pan‚??s Labyrinth is by far the superior film, for two clear reasons.

The first reason surrounds the relationship between the audience and the central character. Both Ofelia‚??s quest for her former self and Jeliza-Rose‚??s bid for survival require us to completely relate to the central character before we start to accept the existence of fairies or demons, or ‚??monster sharks‚??. In Pan‚??s Labyrinth, we identify with Ofelia because there is so little background to either the fauns she meets or the soldiers with whom she lives. She is the only reliable witness we have, so we quickly accept her view and thereby begin to believe that what we are seeing is real.

Gilliam, on the other hand, seems unsure as to how much we should care about Jeliza-Rose, played superbly by Jodelle Ferland. By having both parents OD in the first half hour, we have little choice over whom we focus on, but the circumstances in which we find her are so repulsive and uncomfortable that we struggle to stay the course. The problem is not, as some have suggested, that films involving children should not be this dark. The problem is that Gilliam does not know how to marshal this darkness so that the true emotions of the character come across. Much of the film feels like Jeliza-Rose just play-acting, as if there is no threat or danger; when the real dangers arrive it is like being awoken from an increasingly irritating dream with no real beginning or end.

The second reason for Pan‚??s superiority lies in its thematic clarity. Although it is incredibly multi-layered, Pan‚??s Labyrinth is very clearly a film about innocence, identity and memory. Del Toro doesn‚??t shove these themes down the audience‚??s throats, but every single movement and development is so bound up with such ideas that once you are immersed in the story, it doesn‚??t take long to pick up on them.

Tideland, on the other hand, isn‚??t sure exactly what its themes are beyond the resilience of children. As a thesis about innocence struggling through darkness, it does partially succeed: the final scene with the train wreck is quite breathtaking, with Jeliza‚??s fantasy being finally ruptured with the arrival of more people. Her tears in this scene at leaving her childhood fantasy behind are beautifully handled, and this scene as a whole almost redeems the entire film.

Outside of this, however, the film is incoherent and extremely rambling. It seems so content to play out as a series of childlike fantasies between Jeliza-Rose and Dickens that it forgets to have anything else resembling a plot. After the departure of Jeff Bridges the film drags terribly, with many sections feeling repetitive and the dialogue becoming increasingly tiresome. There are some genuinely shocking moments, such as Jeff Bridges being embalmed or the Frankenstein-like dream sequence where one of the doll‚??s heads is fastened on the body of Jeliza-Rose‚??s dead mother, played by Jennifer Tilly. But none of these sequences feel like continuations of any kind of plot; like aspects of Alice in Wonderland, on which Tideland is based, they come out of nowhere with seemingly little purpose other than to turn one‚??s stomach.

The comparison with Alice (of which Gilliam is a huge fan) helps to illuminate Tideland‚??s problems with regard to characters. The characters in Alice are notably insane and off-the-wall, but with a couple of exceptions they are never tiresome or annoying. Whether in Lewis Carroll‚??s original novel or the numerous adaptations, they remain compelling and involving because their dialogue and personalities are well-constructed. They are never patronising or condescending towards Alice or by extension the reader, and their whimsy belies a twisted sense of darkness which makes Alice‚??s journey more compelling.

In contrast, most of the characters in Tideland struggle to remain compelling beyond their initial quirks. They are so exaggerated, so quirky and thereby so annoying, that it takes a huge amount of patience to put up with them, let alone unravel them. Gilliam is increasingly a director who is content to let actors play freely and go as far over-the-top as they like; an approach which frequently backfires, as seen from Heath Ledger‚??s work in both The Brothers Grimm and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

To this end, we understand Dickens‚?? mental instability very early on, but there is far too little character development beyond a fleeting ‚??romance‚?? (perhaps the wrong word) with Jeliza-Rose. Dell is scary in parts, like when she reveals her bad eye and talks about the bees, but her pious screaming at the dinner table tips over into clich√©d nonsense. Finally, too little effort is made over different aspects of Jeliza-Rose‚??s personality being represented by the doll‚??s heads. We get used to them talking without her lips moving, but when she begins to abandon them we are given little inclination as to what such gestures represent.

Tideland is, for better or worse, unlike any other film you have ever seen. Taken purely as an artistic exercise, it is a big improvement on The Brothers Grimm, because it is so uncompromising and so full-on. And you do have to admire Terry Gilliam for wanting to push the boundaries of what is both possible and acceptable with regard to children on screen. But in the end it is too long, too annoying and far too badly structured to compete with Brazil or 12 Monkeys. For all his best efforts and intentions, it remains an admirable failure, with moments of heartbreaking brilliance nestled among hours of uninvolving repetition.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2008
Terry Gilliam hasn't exactly dazzled us with either the quantity or the quality of his work in recent years though this is still easily the best thing he has done since Twelve Monkeys, certainly much better than its 27% critics' rating would suggest. The story centres on Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland, remarkably assured), a damaged little girl who escapes into her imagination to pass the time that her junkie parents (Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilley) spend 'on vacation', the euphemism by which they refer to their interminable, drug-induced stupors. After Jeliza-Rose's mother fatally overdoses, she and her father flee to rural Texas and that staple refuge of the fairy tale, Grandmother's house... I must admit, I wasn't sure what to make of this for the first half hour; it wasn't until Bridges embarked on his final vacation, leaving Jeliza-Rose and her doll's-head friends to explore the house, that the movie really started working for me. Though the overall tone is dark and unsettling, there are some leavening moments of black comedy along the way, and the lonely girl's attempts to befriend her eccentric neighbours are sweet and touching. Monty Python fans will enjoy an animation set inside Jeff Bridges chest cavity (don't ask!) that recalls Gilliam's early work on the Flying Circus.
Super Reviewer
September 26, 2008
I just don't know what to say about this movie. It was visually stunning and I love the camera angles (it was through the eyes of a child). The little actress was outstanding! But it was still creepy and disturbing and weird as well. You have to like this sort of weirdo, fantasy, pseudo-horror type of film. And not be weirded out by a young child in effed up situations, or at least be able to put aside your morals for 2 hours.
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2008
A girl left alone in an old country house retreats into a fantasy world after being left to her own devices by her junkie father, all the while not recognizing the dangers posed by her mentally challenged adult playmate and his bizarre, vindictive sister. A sinister, shocking and fantastic movie about childhood's oblivion towards the dangers of the adult world that flirts with greatness but never quite reaches it.
Super Reviewer
April 19, 2008
you must heed gilliam's advice to watch this film through a child's eyes, otherwise it's not really viewable and offensive. there is beauty in this skewed vision and disturbing world. this work definitely shows the resilience of a child's persective through fantasy.
Super Reviewer
½ July 6, 2007
Alice in wonderland on acid. An interesting but ineffective example of Gilliam's poetic, magical, sad and disturbing universe. The young little Jodelle Ferland is quite precocious and convincing in her role.
Super Reviewer
February 2, 2008
A new jewel for the Gilliam crown
Super Reviewer
½ February 28, 2007
This a tough film to rate and review. I know that I liked it overall, that is was a damned interesting experience, it's just tough to say whether it's a really good film or not - certainly not up to the level of Gilliam at his best as with The Fisher King or Brazil. The film stars a wonderful young actor, Jodelle Ferland, as Jeliza-Rose - a young girl who escapes with her soon deceased father (Jeff Bridges) to her grandmothers; farm after the mother's drug overdose. One thing Gilliam never fails to do is push the boundaries of filmmaking, often testing the morals of the audience. Although, before I saw Tideland, the buzz around made me expect much worse than what is actually in the film. The supposed sexuality involving the young girl is nothing more than a socially challenging relationship between her and an older, mentally challenged boy (which doesn't involve get to the point of any real sexuality, and is almost innocent). Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the preparation of drugs for her parents in the film. That's the thing, Gilliam may have challenged audiences a little too much with Tideland, hence its not being greatly received. But although this surely isn't one of Gilliam greatest achievements, I don't think it deserves the almost universal panning it got. If nothing else, it's a highly imaginative, well made film that takes the "down the rabbit hole" concept to new, very weird, heights. The cast of characters is as off-the-wall as you would expect, and the small cast assembled here is excellent. The visuals in the film are also strikingly beautiful at times, and the set design meticulous, highly detailed. Tideland is a challenging film that looks great and is worth watching if just to see what kind of weird antics Gilliam is up to. At least it's no Brothers Grimm, and perhaps it will grow on me more with repeat viewings.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2007
Interesting...weird...that's all I can say.
Super Reviewer
½ October 11, 2007
Even though it's Gilliam, it still pretty much sucked. It had its moments, but I only have such a threshold for this kind of creepy... you know, little 6 year old girls making out with 18 year old retards around rotting corpses and stuff...
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2006
What an antidote to The Brothers Grimm! Gilliam's late 2005 effort was so hamstrung by studio interference and Miramax's need to keep it family-friendly that it ended up something of a CGI-heavy slapstick mess, not at all befitting the Brazil director's modus operandi.
Quite the opposite, the indie black comedy Tideland is a very personal project for 'Tez', an off-kilter story about a young girl forced to retreat into her imagination. To this end, she has talking doll heads and a retarded man for friends, encounters with a witch and adventures in a cardboard shelter as trains go by. Such is the scope of Jeliza-Rose's imagination (and Jodelle Ferland's performance) that the audience forgets that all the controlled madness is going on between two derelict houses for nearly the whole film.
Marrying black humour to childhood trauma is not something that every director could pull off, but Gilliam is in his element here, making light of addiction and death ("what died in here??") and hints at young sexuality. It all makes for a bracing watch with a torce-de-force of emotional pointers.
Bridges is ace as well.
EDIT: I've since watched Pan's Labyrinth and I think this is much better. So there.
Super Reviewer
June 1, 2007
I caught this purely incidentally after a long day at work it was the perfect movie to get away from reality for a bit. This is what happens when a little girl's mother dies of an overdose and her dad takes her on a journey to the old house her grandmother lived in.

She is friends with several dolls' heads, and the friends she makes in the country when she discovers an interesting realm.

The pure innocence and naivety of a child's wonder at the world.

Based on a book, too by Mitch Cullin apparently.

The whole film had a bit of that Big Fish charm by Burton...though it's definitely Gilliam behind the camera.

Jodelle Ferland seemed perfect for this part after always playing that eerie little girl. Jeff Bridges seemed to fit quite naturally and Brendan Fletcher was amazing as Dickens.
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2007
Self-indulgent, repetitive and utterly painful, Tideland becomes a complete waste of time past the first ten minutes when all the wonder wears away. Jodelle Ferland tries her damndest with the impossible demands Terry Gilliam places on her, but she is pretty much unbearable. To be fair, everything about this movie is unbearable. Even the cinematography, which has occasional glimmers of brilliance, feels unplanned and utterly confused. Hey...just like the rest of the movie!

I should have known what I was getting myself into when Terry Gilliam had to apologize for the film before it started, but no, I frittered away two hours on this shit. Don't make the same mistake.
Super Reviewer
March 27, 2007
Well made, but I didn't enjoy it. I found the whole experience unpleasant and meaningless.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2008
Bizarre film about a little girl whose real life is so desolate and tragic, that the only way she can survive is to retreat into a fanasy world. Similar in style and tone to Pan's Labyrinth. Fireflies become fairies and Jeliza has conversations with her disembodied dolls' heads and with animals. She naturally clings to the two damaged souls she encounters living on the prairie because there is no one else. By turns disturbing, heart-wrenching, horrifying, beautiful, tragic, and powerful. Although written and directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame), there was little to laugh at. If this movie doesn't stir up all kinds of emotions, you must be dead. This viewer wanted to find Jeliza a safe place where she could just be a kid and let someone else take care of her.
Super Reviewer
½ October 30, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]In "Tideland", Jeliza-Rose(Jodelle Ferland) is the daughter of rock and roll parents. When her mother(Jennifer Tilly) dies of an overdose, the girl's father(Jeff Bridges) takes her far away to an isolated, abandoned farmhouse where he grew up. But he too dies from an overdose, making Jeliza-Rose an orphan. [/font]

[font=Century Gothic]But she is not exactly alone...[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Like Terry Gilliam said in his filmed introduction(a unique touch for a theatrical release), "Tideland" is a movie about the resiliency of children. And it is true up to a point that children are not as fragile as we are occasionally led to believe but this could be because their ties to reality are not as strong as an adult's, thus not giving them a full grasp of how much peril they may be in or how much they do rely on adults.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]Terry Gilliam still has his flair for the visual but the movie soon grows tiresome, and does not really go anyplace interesting. The fantasy sequences are nice enough but the film relies too much on the grotesque to hammer its points home.[/font]
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2008
A truly sick film, that is only compensated with an extraordinary performance by young Jodelle Ferland.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2011
A much better film than most reviewers would have you believe. There is horror and unpleasantness in abundance - yes - but focus on Terry Gilliam's own comment that this is a world viewed through a child's eyes - allow yourself to see through those eyes and all will become much clearer.
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