I'm now in the part of my Netflix queue that has movies that were added when I first set it up a year and a half ago, where none of the plot synopses sound good and I wonder why I bothered getting them. The synopsis for this one reads, "Set in the 1920s, director Tarsem Singh's visually lush drama stars Lee Pace as paralyzed movie stuntman Roy Walker, who bonds with an imaginative 5-year-old named Alexandria (Cantinca Untaru) as they convalesce together in a Los Angeles infirmary. To coax the girl into procuring the cache of morphine he wants from the hospital pharmacy, the suicidal Roy regales Alexandria with an elaborate fantasy about larger-than-life heroes."
So basically, it sounds like a period piece about a suicidal guy who uses a kid to get him the drugs he needs to kill himself. Not terribly interesting. The little bit at the end about the story he tells her is the most important part, because that's really what the best parts of the movie are.
We're always jumping from Roy's bedside reality to the fantasy reality, and the two worlds are set so far apart from each other stylistically that, even though the jumps can be sudden, there's never any overlap between them. The hospital is pretty bland in a "everything is a different shade of gray" sort of way. Nothing stands out from anything else, and even the shots aren't anything out of the ordinary. The fantasy world though is beautiful. Bright, vivid colors are everywhere, locales are exotic and dramatic, and the characters in the fantasy, their costumes especially, are unreal. Sometimes the characters are little figures on the horizon, and other times their faces take up the whole screen. The music rises and falls, but never goes completely silent, and every action is deliberate and dramatic, like it was being performed on stage.
It makes me wish there were more movies that felt like fairy tales. Pan's Labyrinth, Stardust, and this all have the feel of bedtime stories; innocent good fighting absolute evil. The heroes do nothing that we don't cheer for, and we never feel sympathy for the villains. Movies like this are great not just because they're stories are straight to the point, but because the nature of the story requires them to be shot in such a way that everything is separate from reality, and is visually gorgeous as a result. Definitely one of the prettiest movies I've seen.