Since hearing about Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I had a desire to see it. And since hearing that after Heath Ledger's death, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell would all fill in to complete his unfinished scenes (and would give their earnings to Ledger's baby daughter), it became a need to see it.
After all, the twisted mind that brought us Monty Python, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Brazil, directing four amazing talents and a respected veteran like Christopher Plummer in a fantasy seemed an unbeatable equation. And it did not disappoint.
The film is about an old-fashioned traveling theatre company that calls up participants, one at a time, to step through the mirror and be faced with the ultimate choice - good or evil (and, in this case, fantasy or reality). Drama ensues when Mr Nick arrives to collect on a debt owed to him by Parnassus. Just then, Tony, an amnesiac white knight, appears. And all the while, Parnassus' teenage daughter is going through a particularly angsty puberty.Xhead = Flights of fancy
I enjoyed the fact that the Imaginarium itself was quaintly vintage, with a wood-and-cogs mechanical contraption that harks back to old sideshows, but the film is set in modern England.
The scenes inside the Imaginarium are lovely to look at and contrast strongly to the bleak England scenes. The scenery was delightfully quirky, and the Monty Python connection was obvious, especially in the scene containing a hot air balloon with a face. No killer rabbits, though.
Christopher Plummer (Dr Parnassus) and Verne Troyer (Percy, his sidekick, for lack of a better word) were magnificently on form acting-wise and banter-wise. The gravel-voiced musician Tom Waits as the sinister Mr Nick (the devil) was perfect casting and the role I was most looking forward to seeing this year. Again, delight, not disappointment.
I had not yet seen supermodel Lily Cole (Parnassus' daughter Valentina) in another movie before, but I was pleasantly surprised. Andrew Garfield (Imaginarium employee Anton) got a bit short-changed in terms of marketing - he's a major character but on many posters, he's (if anything) only a name. His acting, too, was great. The film itself was touching, though avoided being schmaltzy.
But the strongest feeling while watching this film was a sort of sad nostalgia for Heath Ledger. And when the film ended, and the screen said "A film from Heath Ledger & Friends", a few tears couldn't be prevented.
Thank goodness directors like Gilliam haven't yet been squashed by the Hollywood machine. This movie provides a delightful break from the slew of Michael Bay-esque action movies, and rom coms about insecure career women.