Runs at Varsity, Fri., Nov. 3–Thurs., Nov. 9. Not rated. 115 minutes.

It hardly seems possible, but Terry Gilliam's courageously repellent Tideland has actually found a distributor. Adapting an essentially plotless novel by Mitch Cullin, Gilliam presents an American Gothic Alice in Wonderland. Little Alice is Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland, who turned 10 during the shoot), the logorrheic 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 becomes a solo act. Her unending babble of make-believe constructs a psychotic Wonderland out of two derelict farmhouses, creepy enough to have been furnished by the Wisconsin cannibal Ed Gein. 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 finale 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. J. HOBERMAN

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow