I am a HUGE Terry Gilliam fan. I got to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus early. I was really excited and was hoping this was going to be one of Gilliam’s best. Sure, there was the hype and mystery surrounding this film. It’s Heath Ledger’s last film and you always wonder if Terry Gilliam is even going to finish one. So with Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell stepping in for Ledger, I had no idea what to expect. Then again, you never know what to expect with a Terry Gilliam film. That’s kind of the point.
It’s the story (sort of) of Dr. Parnassus, an immortal mystic locked in combat with the devil via various bets. Up for grabs is in this and other various wagers is Dr. Parnassus’ own daughter, Valentina, when she reaches her 16th birthday and comes of age. If Dr. Parnassus loses, he loses his only daughter.
As I’m watching the movie it was a bit all over the place. This was not Ledger’s finest performance. How can you top the Dark Knight? You can’t. But I was still enjoying the movie since even a mediocre Terry Gilliam film is still really fun to watch. But then a scene took me WAY out of the movie.
There’s the little matter of statutory rape in the film. Shortly after her 16th birthday Dr. Parnassus’ daughter has sex with Colin Farrell on a boat. Now, I know the movie was made in England where the age of consent is 16. I checked Wikipedia. I hope nothing happens to me in the next few days where my computer is suddenly seized by a forensics team and they go over my internet history. That would be awkward.
But it was even more awkward to watch this unfold on film. OK, Colin’s hot, I get it ladies, but with a 16 year old? Come on. Also, the actress, Lily Cole, clearly looks (and is) older than 16 so why not just make her older and have your audience avoid a really icky feeling towards the end of the movie? Not really sure what the point of that was. Make her 21 or at least 18, on the verge of womanhood. Then after a clearly older man seduces her all the women in the audience would have just rolled their eyes and we would be done. Instead you get a real cringe worthy moment. And yes, I am aware that the age of consent in some states is 16 or in some cases even lower. Look how well that’s working out.
I suppose a few years ago this wouldn’t have bothered me as much, or at least I would not have fixated upon it. But now that I’m a father with a daughter, things change. Being the father of a young girl brings on a whole new and sometimes intrusively unwanted perspective. It’s hard to even look at strippers anymore without thinking “God, that girl’s parents must have really messed her up” Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can still do it and shut off parent mode while looking at a topless woman on cable but it just takes a little more effort every time.
So other than the rape part was The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus any good? Well, it was OK. Not my favorite of his films, but not his worst. But this is the first time I ever felt put off a bit by one. And while I’m pretty sure this situation will never arise, nevertheless I’m never letting Colin Farrell in a boat with my daughter.