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Film / Tideland

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Tideland is a 2005 fantasy/comedy/drama/horror film directed by Terry Gilliam. It is based on the novel of the same name by Mitch Cullin.

Jodelle Ferland plays Jeliza-Rose, a spritely young girl with negligent, drug-addicted white trash hippie parents. Her only friends are the severed Barbie doll heads she wears on her fingers. After her mother (Jennifer Tilly) dies of a drug overdose one night, she and her father Noah (Jeff Bridges) flee to Noah's mother's farm in the countryside of Texas. Finding it abandoned, they settle in anyway. Noah himself dies of a drug overdose on the first night. But because Jeliza is used to her parents being unconscious for long periods of time, she doesn't realize this and she leaves him upright in his armchair, slowly decaying, for the course of the film.

Jeliza spends the days wandering about the estate with her doll's head companions and begins slipping into a dark, hallucinogenic fantasy. She encounters two backwoods neighbors: the mentally disabled Manchild Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), and his older sister Dell (Janet McTeer). Dickens dresses in a scuba outfit and is obsessed with destroying a "monster shark" he believes is stalking the estate (actually a train). Dell burned her father's beehives after they stung her mother to death and now believes all bees in the world harbor a personal vendetta against her. The two take Jeliza under their wing (in a sense), going so far as to preserve Noah's body through taxidermy. Dickens and Jeliza slowly develop their own kind of Puppy Love, while Dickens continues planning to destroy the train.

Because of the unconventional nature of the film and some scenes of romance between a young girl and a mentally disabled adult, the film's release was extremely limited and it scarcely turned a buck. Critical reception to it generally tended to be polarizing too. Nevertheless, it was a box office hit in Japan and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Compare Alice in Wonderland (which the film references), The Fall, and Pan's Labyrinth.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Jeliza Rose's mother is the more inept of the two parents to the point where she is harmful. It also might be implied that Dell is Jeliza's real mother, and she is hardly any better.
    • Also, Jeliza Rose's mother being more inept than her father doesn't mean much, given that the first scene we see Noah, Jeliza Rose is preparing his heroin injection for him and she (possibly) never realizes he's dead because she's so used to him just sitting there in a drug fugue.
  • The Aloner: Jeliza.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dickens manages to blow up the train, with the obvious result of death and mayhem. However, a kind woman takes Jeliza Rose, believing her to have been on the train.
  • Big Sister Bully: Dell to Dickens.
  • Black Comedy: Jeliza Rose doesn't grasp that her father has died, leading to "hilarious" misunderstandings.
    • Really the entire film has a darker than pitch black comedic tone to it, if one isn't turned off by the premise.
  • Children Are Innocent: Jeliza Rose is reasonably happy in a world populated by dysfunctional, insane adults.
  • Companion Cube: Jeliza Rose's doll heads.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Basically every character with a speaking role (except for the woman at the very end of the film) is one.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: The main plot — yet may be regarded a deconstruction, as the fantastic world Jeliza Rose delves into exists only in her own imagination (plus the insane minds of the adults around her). Lampshaded when Jeliza Rose literally falls down a rabbit hole straight from Alice in Wonderland.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Jeliza's parents both die of drug overdose.
  • Imaginary Friend: The doll heads. Also the squirrel.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Shows how this can end in tragedy. Dickens blows up the monster shark, which was a passenger train killing a lot of people.
  • Fan Disservice: The sex scene between Dell and Patrick is not the slightest bit arousing.
  • Gasshole: Noah repeatedly breaks wind on a public bus and also belches, leading to one passenger to gag and exclaim, "oh, for the love of Mike!". More disgusting still, Noah then attempts to blame the behaviour on his own child. Someone ain't getting a 'Parent of the Year' award.
  • Genre-Busting: On this page alone it's described as a fantasy, a comedy and a drama, and the page image prominently describes it as a "poetic horror".
  • Hard-Work Montage: Jeliza, Dickens and Dell clean Jeliza's grandmother's dilapidated house, complete with music. They do a surprisingly good job.
  • Kill It with Fire: Dell to some bees.
  • Manchild: Dickens.
  • May–December Romance: Jeliza and Dickens.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Dickens and Dell have taxidermied their mother too.
  • Parental Neglect: Nevertheless, Jeliza Rose has a loving relationship with her father — even though he is greatly inept at caring for her.
  • Pet the Dog: Dell is built up to be the psychopathic antagonist for much the film until she realizes Jeliza is living alone with her dead father. She welcomes her as part of the family and helps her fix up the dilapidated farm house. It doesn't last though, as Dell is still insane and she turns villainous towards the end.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Dickens. He kills dozens by blowing up a train as he thought it was a monster.
  • The Pollyanna: Jeliza Rose
  • Talking Animal: The squirrels.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Dell taxidermies her own mother, and later Noah.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Arguably the entire movie.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Noah vomits on the bus, while the camera cuts away to Jeliza's disgusted reaction.