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Perfect Mess

Terry Gilliam's Tideland is the disaster he's always dreamed of.

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Tideland screens Thursday and Sunday at the Cinematheque. See Film Repertory for times.
  • Tideland screens Thursday and Sunday at the Cinematheque. See Film Repertory for times.

Adapting an essentially plotless novel by Mitch Cullin, Terry Gilliam's courageously repellent Tideland presents an American Gothic Alice in Wonderland. Little Alice is Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland, who turned 10 during the shoot), the talkative offspring of two flaming junkies (Jennifer Tilly's Courtney Love-like slattern and Jeff Bridges' flatulent Captain Pissgums). She used to mix up their medicine, and with their demise she becomes a solo act. Her unending babble of make-believe constructs a psychotic Wonderland out of two derelict farmhouses. Local creatures include Jeliza-Rose's collection of Barbie doll heads, several talking rodents, and the neighbors -- a one-eyed witchy beekeeper cum taxidermist (Janet McTeer) and her lobotomized brother (played by Brendan Fletcher as a drooling parody of Forrest Gump).

Increasingly grotesque in its intimations of pedophilia, Tideland ends with a comic train wreck. This could hardly be more appropriate in that the movie seems to have been made for rubbernecking. Gilliam has suffered more than his share of butchered projects, but with this exercise in kamikaze auteurism, he appears to have made exactly the mess he wanted.

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