'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' Should Have Stayed in Purgatory Directed by Terry Gilliam
Starring Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Joana Ribeiro, Jordi Mollà, Óscar Jaenada, Olga Kurylenko
Published Apr 05, 2019The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was in development purgatory for nearly 30 years, as director Terry Gilliam repeatedly tried to get the film made, even yielding a 2002 documentary about the ill-fated production. That excruciatingly long development process has now yielded an excruciatingly long movie — a thoroughly unenjoyable mess that should have been abandoned decades ago.
It's as if Gilliam spent 30 years dealing with bureaucratic red tape, forgot to write a script, then decided to wing it on the day, resulting in an incoherent fever dream full of raving madmen and unfunny, surreal wackiness.
It's a smugly meta adaptation of the 17th century Spanish novel Don Quixote, with Adam Driver starring as Toby, a hotshot filmmaker who got his start a decade earlier with an art-house version of the titular book. Making a movie adaptation about a movie adaptation sounds like the final project by a first-year film student, but here's veteran director Terry Gilliam trying to pull it off as his 13th feature.
The plot, if we can call it that, begins with Toby directing a commercial in Spain and realizing that he's in the same part of the country where he shot his version of Don Quixote years earlier. He goes to visit the village where filming took place, and there he discovers that his leading man Javier (Jonathan Pryce) is now delusional and believes that he really is Don Quixote. Javier thinks that Toby is his squire Sancho Panza, and the two end up getting roped into an epic adventure as they evade the cops and attempt to rescue another one of Toby's former actors, Angelica (Joana Ribeiro), from her cruel husband (Jordi Mollà).
More than once, a scene grows more and more bizarre before Toby wakes up and discovers it was all a dream. It becomes increasingly difficult to separate reality from fantasy, and frankly, who gives a damn anyway. There are a couple different gags about Muslim terrorists, but it's difficult to know if it's Islamophobia or a social critique when it all makes so little sense.
This nonsensical acid trip through the Spanish countryside would be extremely entertaining if it were the length of a music video. But at 132 minutes, it's hard to follow the plot and even harder to care.
(Screen Media Films)