Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Terry Gilliam might as well have his own "Gilliam" genre. The weird, beautifully shot, yet all over the place films with interesting characters and great ideas.
However Gilliam was faced with a difficult decision in this film. His supporting actor, Heath Ledger died in the middle of shooting, and that itself makes the film hard to watch.
The film follows Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and traveling Imaginarium show. He lets his audience basically live out their dreams, they choose from two paths. One will end good, the other bad. Dr. Parnassus made a deal a long time ago for immortality with Mr. Nick (Tom Wait) years later he changed it when he met his first love, but Mr. Nicks made a different agreement. When his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) turns 16, she belongs to Nr. Nick. Valentina is reaching that age, and Dr. Parnassus is not about to give her up. They make yet another deal, who ever entices the first 5 souls wins Valentina.
The script is everywhere, sometimes it's confusing but that's just how Gilliam works. Plummer is a strong lead, and Cole was surprisingly good, even though she looked nothing like a 15 year old. The main issue I had was the distraction of Ledger. Yes, he's good in the film, like he always is. The first shot we see of him he's hanging under a bridge. We're immediately reminded that this is the last film we'll ever see Ledger in again. When Johnny Dep (one of the 3 Tony incarnations) comes on screen, we're reminded again that Ledger is gone. As a huge Ledger fan, that was the hardest thing to get past. The annoyance that one of the greatest actors of all time will never graces us with his on screen presence again. At first I was curious on how Gilliam was going to do Tony, the man hired into the Imaginarium show to help Dr Parnassus get his 5 souls, with 4 different actors. It works. Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law all take in Tony with ease, besides the obvious physical differences, their all on the same page with the character as Ledger as. Farrell might even have been the best, he's the last Tony we see. Plus kudos go to Andrew Garfeild being in the film. He was terrific in 'Boy A', that might be my next 'Indie Gem' review now that I think of it.
The film is beautiful to watch, but at times the plot is shaky, but it's distracting. Very distracting, and that's not Gilliam's fault. He should be lauded for actually going on with the film and not just scrapping it like others have done when they lose a cast member. He knew Ledger's fans wanted to see his work, so he kept all of his scenes and casted new actors. That's caring. I don't think Gilliam had dollars in mind when he made that decision, he loved Heath and wanted to get his work out. Plain and simple.
Recommended: Yes (but familiarize yourself with Gilliam's style or else you might not like it as much) 3/5 stars
Memorable Quote: "What would I do without you, Percy." "Get a midget" - Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and Percy (a surprisingly not annoying Verne Troyer)