The Tide is out, but not far enough


on October 13, 2006 by John P. McCarthy
No doubt characters Jeff Bridges has played over the years have endured many terrible things, but none more degrading than what happens to the hippie father he portrays in this pseudo-gothic nightmare directed by Terry Gilliam ( The Brothers Grimm ). Without revealing the aftermath of an easily anticipated plot point, let's just say it entails excessive flatulence and causes his daughter to remark, “He looks like a burrito.” At once bizarre and not bizarre enough, this unintentionally silly and pointlessly macabre exercise is an adaptation of “the best-selling book of the same name by Mitch Cullen.” What exactly does it take to deemed a bestseller? Not much, judging by Tideland the movie, which doesn't even warrant minor cult status.

One can only hope the producers had a shrink on set because the chances young Jodelle Ferland was traumatized making the picture are way better than 50/50. She plays Jeliza-Rose, the pre-teen daughter of two smack addicts (Bridges and Jennifer Tilly) who has the privilege of preparing Daddy's syringes prior to his “vacations.” Soon-to-expire mom fondly recalls Jeliza-Rose's earliest hours as a “lip-smacking little junkie baby,” a condition infinitely preferable to what awaits when she and her father travel by bus to his ramshackle childhood home on the prairie. The thrust of the piece is to show how children (resilient little creatures that they are) retreat into fantasy worlds as a coping mechanism, and make-believe isn't synonymous with safety and innocence. Jeliza-Rose passes the time play-acting with four severed doll heads; her mild case of multiple personality disorder is just one of many pathologies on display. Scenes of her lolling through the fields impersonating her dolls are fairly tedious, yet things liven up when she encounters a bee-phobic crone (Janet McTeer) and her developmentally disabled brother (Brendan Fletcher). These two have all the fun.

The success of a movie like this hinges on the central performance, and Ferland isn't up to it. The only reason she gives us to hope Jeliza-Rose gets plucked from these sordid circumstances is so we don't have to listen to her drone on. And Gilliam can only fashion a few arresting visual sequences. He needed to go much further into the cinematically forbidden to make an impact. Appropriately, Tideland ends with a train wreck. Distributor: ThinkFilm
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Jennifer Tilly and Janet McTeer
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriters: Tony Grisoni and Tony Gilliam
Producers: Jeremy Thomas and Gabriella Martinelli
Genre: Fantasy drama
Rating: R for bizarre and disturbing content, including drug use, sexuality and gruesome situations -- all involving a child -- and for some language
Running time: 119 min.
Release date: October 13 NY, 10/20 LA/Chi

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