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,
ends with a train wreck.
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