I would just like to start this review by saying that I loved the cast of this film, but I did not love this movie. Needless to say, I am on the proverbial fence about it, and cannot decide if I liked it or not. If any of you have ever seen a (recent) Terry Gilliam directed film, you can understand me when I say he really enjoys messing with your mind. Well sir, my mind does not appreciate this.
As we all know (or maybe we don’t, so let me help you) this is Heath Ledger’s last film. He was working on it when he died. He is, as always, remarkable. I have never, and will never, have a bad thing to say about the films he chose to participate in. I don’t feel like anything I can say in this captures exactly what I mean, so I’ll just say he was perfect, and leave it at that. After he passed away, they had to do some rewriting in order to alleviate his absence, and into his shoes stepped Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. I won’t give away how they do it, or why, but it is very cleverly done. The rest of the cast (Lily Cole, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Waits) are really good too. Like I said, I love the cast of this film. They are all wonderful, and even though I had a hard time following along with what was going on, this is in no way their fault.
Okay, here’s the part I didn’t like. I am not giving anything away by revealing the plot, in fact, I might be doing some of you a favor! “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” is a traveling show featuring the teachings of Parnassus (Plummer). The actors in his show are his daughter Valentina (Cole) and Anton (Garfield). Along the way, they meet Tony (Ledger- it’s really hard to explain, but this part is also played by Depp, Law, and Farrell). It is revealed the Parnassus made a deal with the devil, Mr. Nick (Waits) and they bet on human decisions. The mirror featured in the traveling show is actually a doorway into Parnassus’ mind and the people who go into it are given two choices: if they make a good decision, they come out of his mind feeling free and happy, and if they make a bad choice, they die. They don’t make it back through the mirror. The movie is all about life and death, good and evil. For me, it got a little muddled. There was a lot going on, and there was not a good enough explanation in my opinion as to why some of the things in the film were happening. There were a lot of plot gaps, and that really drives me nuts.
I am not completely cold hearted when it comes to this film. I did get a bit weepy when hearing Tony deliver the line “nothing is permanent, not even death.” And there is a beautiful tribute to him during the credits. For those of you who are fans of Heath Ledger’s or a fan of any of the men who play in, or a fan of anyone in this film, you will not be disappointed. If you’re a fan of avant-garde films, or a fan of Terry Gilliam’s work, you’ll love it. Otherwise, wait for the DVD.