Friday, February 12, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Terry Gilliam's latest movie, is a little bit of a mess. It's not terribly linear, it's mostly confusing and depressing. But most of those issues are lost in one fact: It's Heath Ledger's last movie.

And, actually, as most of us know, Ledger didn't make it through the entire movie. He apparently filmed the half of the movie that takes place in reality, on one side of the imaginarium mirror, but not the other half. Gilliam, amazingly, was able to convince three of our finest actors to help complete the movie: Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp. And, also amazingly, we're supposed to believe that each of these actors is another side of Heath Ledger's character. Whew. And this addition of Tony #2, #3 and #4 works, to a certain degree.

It's a circus, a traveling circus, complete with old clown (portrayed by Christopher Plummer, who looks older and older, just in this role) and a dwarf. And there is a magical door, or mirror, where unsuspecting people are thrust into and are changed. The circus picks up a drifter (Ledger) who helps the dying travel show pick up some cash. But the drifter has a past they don't know about.

As I said, the additional Tonys on the other side of the mirror work, at least to impress us that people change on the other side of the mirror. But they also serve to remind us that Heath Ledger is no longer in the film, no longer among us. As Mick LaSalle said so aptly in his review in the San Francisco Chronicle, we miss him all the more.

The only thing that's riveting about this movie is Ledger. He's magical, even in half a role. But there is no other reason to see this hodgepodge of magic and death. Thumb's down.


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