Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam is a genius. I don’t think anyone can argue that. He’s made some of the most visually groundbreaking and conceptually astounding movies of all time. He’s definitely in my top ten list of filmmakers. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys all hold special places in my heart.

So it seems terribly unjust that Gilliam has had such rotten luck as of late with his film projects. First there was the apocalyptic disaster known as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in the summer of 2000, which fell to pieces when the production became mired in mishap after mishap. Though I’ve never seen it, I’ve heard that the film Lost in La Mancha which was released in ’02 and documents exactly how that movie fell apart, is terrifically riveting. As the story goes, on the second day of shooting the lead actor suffered a severe spinal injury, and I guess from there the rest went downhill.

Then came The Brothers Grimm. Originally, the film was supposed to be released, in early fall of last year, 2004. However, as seems to be poor Terry’s fate as of late, things got…complicated. MGM suddenly decided to pull financial backing for the film about a couple months before they were supposed to start shooting. Whoops. Just when it looked like it might be another little bit of history repeating itself, the wonder twins (Bob and Harvey Weinstein) jumped in and decided to back it, and slap the Dimension brand on the film. But the two bad boys from NYC did not exactly solve all of Gilliam’s problems. He continued to struggle with issues involving both cast and crew. Due to all of the delays and uncertainty of the production, many big actors who had been cast had to back out due to “scheduling conflicts”. Among these fancy stars were Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams and Johnny Depp. Gilliam wanted Samantha Morton in the lead female role, but the Weinstein’s nixed it. They also made him change his choice for the composer of the original score. Even when the film finally started production, the troubles continued, and the cinematographer was fired personally by Bob Weinstein. Last June, in a fairly unusual move by a director, Gilliam decided he was going to place Bros Grimm “on hold” so that he could go work on another film, Tideland, a film about a young girl who looses her mother and then seeks escape in the fantasy world that lives through her imagination. Apparently Gilliam felt there were some issues on set that needed to be dealt with, in regards to Brother’s Grimm and he felt a breather was in order. Who could blame the poor guy after all that hub bub with the casting and financing. Gilliam came back to the Bros Grimm in January of this year, and finally at long last after months of waiting, Dimension threw us a bone with this trailer .

From the very first shot of little red riding hood frolicking through the forest, I already began to fall in love with the production design. Something about the misty air and dark corners at the edge of the camera shots intimate “story book” in just the perfect way. The CG creatures look pretty cool, though based off the trailer, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious difference between the creatures that the Grimm brothers “create” and those that they fight off. I actually think it would be interesting if they did making them distinct from one another, but we’ll see.

The screenplay was written by Ehren Kruger, who generally does horror and thriller films. Among his credits are Arlington Road, Scream 3, The Ring, and The Ring 2. He also wrote The Skeleton Key, a horror flick starring Kate Hudson, which also comes out later this summer. As you can see, his credits are kind of a mixed bag, I mean the first Ring was great, but other than that the movies trends towards the hackier side of things. The story of Bros Grimm seems basic enough, albeit not particularly original. Two con men who pretend to be in a particular profession are finally faced with the real thing. I think the real quality of the story will come from the degree to which Kruger can cleverly weave together different elements of classic fairy tales, and keep the plot moving while developing the characters and situations with humor. I do wish Gilliam had written the script though; I feel certain he would have infused it with more Monty Python-esque wackiness, that I don't trust Kruger to have done. The last released film he wrote was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, over seven years ago. Gilliam wrote Tideland, the film that he left Bros Grimm to go direct, and something makes me think his real interest and creative dedication may have been channeled in Tideland instead of Grimm, as the two films overlapped with one another.

Gilliam has never really done a “throwaway” picture (– something obviously just done for the money and completed in a slapdash way) but with all the problems he’s had, it looks like Grimm might be the first. I like Matt Damon a lot, but he looks sort of foolish in the trailer. I suppose that’s the idea, but I’ve never been completely sold on Damon’s ability to be a lead in a comedic capacity. As for Heath Ledger, I’ve never really been particularly impressed by anything he’s been in, and certainly don’t buy him as the “quieter, more studious type”. I’m curious to see what sort of chemistry Ledger and Damon have on screen, because I didn’t get a sense of it from the trailer. I’ve never noticed Lena Headey in anything before (she plays the female lead) so I’m hoping the fact that she’s somewhat of an unknown will add a refreshing feel to the cast. As for Monica Bellucci, I am always a fan, and will enjoy seeing her reprise another role as a villain.

The film is released on August 26th, which to me is another “scary” sign, because studios usually dump their less promising summer films right at the end. Though to their credit, I think they’ve at least spent some money on the marketing of the film: the posters are pretty swanky. I have complete and utter faith in Gilliam as a filmmaker, but at this point, with all the troubles he’s been through lately, I think he’s entitled to a throwaway. Not that I’m certain that’s what Bros Grimm will be, but if the shoe fits….

{On a side note, I read in the little IMDB trivia section of Bros Grimm that they had to cut out the most expensive sequence of the film that had already been shot. The studio felt it occurred too early in the film, and would be too difficult to top later on. How sad is that?}


Blogger Elliot said...

Terry Gilliam is my favourite film maker of all time.
I'm prepared to ignore all misgivings the trailer has brought out in me.

5:50 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

I commend you for your staunch loyalty.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Elliot said...

Bless you comrade.

10:09 PM  

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