To begin with, I have to admit that I have a hard time not liking anything that I’ve seen with Terry Gilliam at the helm. “Fear and Loathing”, “Time Bandits”, and of course all of his involvement with the Pythons have made him one of my favorite people to ever be on either side of the camera.
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” sticks to the same vein of weird as many other Gilliam productions. The movie focuses on the adventures of a wandering group of theater performers and their mysterious leader, Doctor Parnassus. One of the main things to set this film apart from other Gilliam works is its concentration on deeper character development and interaction.
The plot on the surface was a fairly unique and somewhat interesting idea. Parnassus has been making bets on a regular basis with a “Mr. Nick” (the devil), and now he has more at stake than he ever before thought possible. Alongside this, Parnassus’ daughter is the focus of the competing attentions of both his assistant, Anton, and the man who’s life they recently saved, Tony. The main problem is that although the characters are nicely written, the story is always having to take turns with the character development. Typically this isn’t a problem, but I felt that it may have lost some of the audience in the switching.
The acting was there for the most part. Christopher Plummer (Parnassus) and Tom Waits (Mr. Nick) are both great, and three of the four actors (Ledger, Depp, and Law) to play Tony are fairly good. From there the acting is lukewarm to okay.
Pretty interesting throughout. There are some neat camera tricks employed in well-timed shots. The framing is almost always perfect and makes each scene interesting to the eye.
Fantastic effects, especially for 2009. A definite Gilliam touch.
Buried somewhere in this somewhat troubled production is a good film. I know the issue I didn’t really address was the quadruple-casting of the character of Tony after the original actor (Ledger) died. Some people saw this as being disrespectful of Ledger, especially because of the immediacy of the re-casting. In my opinion, I think Ledger would have understood, especially because he was familiar with Gilliam’s emotional drive to finish projects despite issues he can’t control. What resulted was a good film, but there was a certain lack of focus in the entire project.
It speaks for itself. Go find a copy of it and see it. (Especially if you’re a fan of Gilliam like me!)
P.S.- If my rating system may seem harsh at times, it’s only because I see films as needing a balance of elements to succeed. Basically I would recommend seeing anything I give above a 5 or 6, for the simple reason that it must have been good enough in at least one area to get even that kind of rating.