In a preface to his latest and worst film, director Terry Gilliam appears on camera, imploring the audience to view the gruesome piece as a fable about youthful resiliency, and conceding that many will not like it. That is the only moment of understatement he provides, directing the action at a fever pitch of carnival grotesquerie.
How could an artist as gifted as Gilliam ("Monty Python and the Holy Grail,"Brazil,"Twelve Monkeys") have made a film as repugnant as "Tideland"? More to the point, why would he? Did he believe the world was hungry for a Gothic childhood fantasy that plays like "Psycho" retold by Lewis Carroll? By what means did he convince Jeff Bridges to play a rock 'n' roll has-been junkie who makes his 10-year-old daughter, Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland), prep his heroin needle? (Then he dies early, and spends the rest of the film as a cadaver the lonely girl cuddles on their isolated farmhouse's bed.) How could Gilliam think audiences would warm to the child's make-out sessions with a deformed, mentally challenged adult neighbor?
The literal train wreck that caps the film is an apt metaphor for this hallucinatory fiasco. It's impossible to guess what Gilliam was driving at, but I'm certain he was heading in the wrong direction.