movie review: the imaginarium of doctor parnassus
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus… a movie of epic proportions: chaotic, burlesque and gothic, intense, ominous… also, Heath Ledger’s last film. Ledger’s superb and gripping talent is irrefutably present in Imaginarium, alongside his castmates Christopher Plummer (Doctor Parnassus), Lily Cole (Parnassus’ daughter Valentina), Tom Waits (Mr. Nick, a representation of the Devil), and Andrew Garfield (Anton, Valentina’s friend). Ledger plays a man with amnesia who stumbles into Parnassus and the gang’s show and decides to join, falling in love with Valentina in the meantime. Surprising as it is to see such a familiar model suddenly on screen, Lily Cole proves that she’s more than a pretty face.
I won’t go into incredible detail for fear of spoiling the movie, but with co-writer and director Terry Gilliam at the helm, it’s no wonder crazy twists and turns (fueled by lucid 3D graphics and elaborate sets) in Imaginarium amaze and awe. Gilliam, whose previous work ranges from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and Brothers Grimm to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, claims that “[he] won’t be getting an Academy Award… ever.” And for Imaginarium, he may be right. Though I found the movie graphically sensational, the story entertaining, and the characters charming and flawed, it was slow at times with unsettling plot problems. However, the shift in cast due to Ledger’s death in no way, I believe, affects the movie negatively: in fact, the additions of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law created a new level on-screen as well as in the storyline. As the alter-egos of Ledger’s character, Depp, Farrell, and Law were just “three good friends who came to the rescue, out of love and friendship and respect for Heath” said Gilliam. Their performances carry the same charm as Ledger’s, with tweaks of their own brilliance.
Through Ledger’s death and the movie’s budget problems, Gilliam, the cast and crew pulled Imaginarium together to produce a dark wonderland. I recommend this movie, not just because it’s Ledger’s last acting days caught on film, but because of the collaboration of fine people whose creativity and talent inspired the show to go on. Three and a half stars out of five.