The Man Who Killed Don Quixote ★★★½

"And now, after more than 25 years in the making, and unmaking..." says the winsome disclaimer, which brought back a formative recollection of mine. Back in '03, I rented Lost in La Mancha and was fascinated on two fronts: Gilliam's eccentric aspirations to get this made, and the misfortune that his large-scale filmmaking was never financed. Before then, and thereafter, many actors had been called upon to enact this halted dream. To say its infamous production is "worth the wait" might not completely fulfill its belated hiatus, but I'm glad that Gilliam succeeded, as I was mostly enamored with the madcap craft.

The wacky, adventurous travails between cynical ad exec Toby (Adam Driver) and amiable cobbler Javier (Jonathan Pryce), who is convinced he's Don Quixote, is when this sings as an exuberant delight. I enjoyed the abrupt prelude, too, with Toby's Don Quixote commercial where he mistakes a windmill as a giant! Before that occurs, though, there's meager exposition for a hefty first-act. Memories from a decade prior have returned, when The Boss (Stellan Skarsgård) sends haggard Gypsy (Óscar Jaenada), to sell Toby a DVD of his b&w student film. Meanwhile, Toby has an affair with The Boss' wife Jacqui (Olga Kurylenko), before he's sent down the precedent rabbit hole.

Not that the initial 25-minutes are dire, yet they do forestall the more preferable crux, and ultimately serve little purpose for The Boss, Jacqui or Gypsy as mere pawns at a palatial soirée. More specifically: Gilliam loses coherence between the era-blending of 17th century attire and 21st century anachronisms when Toby's sanity is concerned. I'm thinking of the extended, impromptu trip to sadistic Russian oligarch, Alexei (Jordi Mollà) whose having a shindig at his castle. In addition, I'd come to enjoy actress-turned-escort Angelica (Joana Ribeiro) as someone who was largely influenced by Toby's profession advice, yet her general mistreatment by Alexei in the final-third appeared like a tacked-on afterthought.

Everything else, however, is Gilliam in enticing mode. Whether it's the poignant flashback of Toby asking Javier to play the role, or the lovable footage of Angelica dancing in front of the camera. And despite showing signs of an amateurish non-professional actor, Javier finds the gumption at Raul's (Hovik Keuchkeriana) tavern to be the more authoritative Quixote. When Toby realizes a decade later that Javier believes he's Quixote, the two embark on a hilarious romp where illusions pervade the mind. Driver is fretfully entertaining as "Sancho", lagging behind the knight errant himself, and livid by Javier's impish arrogance. Yet it's Pryce who's just so kookily great: the sword-wielding bluster, the taunting mockeries, the prosthetic nose, the chivalrous braggadocio, the announced damsel-saviorship, despite clearly being someone who's turned into a raving lunatic.

Some anecdotal details I thoroughly enjoyed: Pryce imperiously riding the white steed, while Driver has to a sit upon a dilapidated donkey! All of Sueños' batshit locals are also an amusing bunch, and many laughs were had at the inopportune arrival of Holy Week. When Gilliam lets his more oddball streak shine; the talking meat carcasses, the licking goat, the trio of berserk giants, that was a blast. Other fundamental asides are on-point; from the widescreen barren locales (Angelica in the underground watery cave is particularly stunning), to the background score that varies between romantic flamenco and quick percussion.

Ultimately, the vital motif this ventured into was Gilliam's autocritique. I like how he's forged a meta-narrative towards Toby's psyche: the inescapable consumption of making a film. Of course, both men did get it underway, yet that doesn't mean it'll depart them. Gilliam chased a dream that he thought was impossible, and Toby's quite literally chasing the Quixote of his own directorial genesis. There's still the extended castle fiasco segment where Gilliam makes a hodgepodge mess of Toby and Quixote's struggle of illusion/delusion. Yet, what mostly transpired before that, and briefly after, moves along with brash eccentricity. Ride into the sunset for one more hurrah.