Published at: Aug. 24, 2005, 4:46 p.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a little review of Terry Gilliam's THE BROTHERS GRIMM. I am, of course, a big fan of Gilliam's flicks and of the man himself. There's something likable about the way he comes across in interviews, documentaries and in his acting roles... A large part of that likablility is his no bullshit attitude and his always enduring underdog status. This poor bastard loves making movies but it always seems like hell. Every movie is a big struggle either financially or spiritually (take a look at LOST IN LA MANCHA and tell me he wasn't arm-wrestling with, and losing to, the Gods with that project). THE BROTHERS GRIMM doesn't seem to be any departure from Gilliam's struggles.
He's been very vocal about studio interference with GRIMM, so I went into the film a little worried. I have trust in Gilliam and his skewed look at any picture, but that doesn't mean he can't stumble, especially if pushed by a couple of big personalities like the Weinsteins.
The movie starts out beautifully. The introduction to the Brothers as children is fantastic. Short and sweet and beautifully sets up their personalities. Their first job when we meet them as adults is finding and eliminating a witch in an old mill. This scene is creepy, funny and visually spectacular. The visual of the old mill and surrounding countryside is off-kilter and gothic, but also rustic. Gilliam and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (X2, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, etc) act like a surreal lens on reality making one of the most visually striking pictures in recent times.
You can tell this first supernatural encounter (which, of course, is anything but supernatural when the Grimms have their money from the townspeople) was done with as much practical effects as possible. The witches robes flow hypnotically, but not in a CG way. Looks like slow motion combined with other camera tricks. That made the sequence stand out and solidified the reality of this extraordinary event.
Unfortunately, the use of CGI later stands out like a sore thumb, especially when compared to the great beginning. There is a wolf that can look good or terrible depending on how far or close it is from the camera. Some of the CG trees work and some look really cartoony... and there's a greenscreen shot that happens in the last act involving the two brothers that looks like it was done in the mid-80s. It's so out of place and distracting.
As you can see, I don't think the movie is perfect, but I will say it's much better than a lot of critics are making it out to be. It's not a complete fumble, but it is probably the most flawed of any Gilliam film I can think of.
Heath Ledger and Matt Damon are very good as the brothers... A little too good looking for a Gilliam leading duo (even FEAR AND LOATHING had Depp shave his head and del Toro grow out the hair and the waistline), but they work well together. The problem is not with the casting. The supporting cast is fantastic, filled with talents like Mackenzie Crook (Hooray for Gareth!), Peter Stormare (Hooray for the Nihilist!), Jonathan Pryce (Hooray for Sam Lowry) and Monica Bellucci (Hooray for... Magdalen? Poor raped woman? Well, Hooray for beauty!).
All do well, focusing on their specialties. Stormare is batshit crazy and that works extremely well for his torture-loving character. Bellucci is beautiful and that works well for her vain evil witch of a character, especially when you see how fugly she gets in the movie. Pryce has a great sort of nasty bit underneath his calm exterior. He can play innocent perfectly (BRAZIL) and he can also play the opposite with great ease and charm as he does in GRIMM. Crook is just awkward and funny, even if he's not in the film very much.
The strengths of the film are Gilliam's work with a great cast, the amazing production design and Gilliam's trademarked weirdness on display throughout the movie. The weaknesses are some really terrible "pull you out of the movie" CG effects and an ending that doesn't make any sense with what is set up and seems to just be there to give it a happy ending, the lapse in logic be damned! There are also moments throughout that show weakness in Ehren Kruger's script, but he's got a strong enough subject that I found them easy enough to overlook.
Oh, and the film gave me one of the most creepy nightmare images I've seen in a long time... that involves spiders and a horse's mouth. That scene seriously fucks my shit up. Big time.
That's about it. Go support Gilliam this weekend, but brace yourself for a flawed movie that has enough Gilliam in it to make your ticket purchase not feel like charity.