Tarsem Singh's first film since his gorgeous-but-empty serial-killer flick The Cell is set in 1920s Hollywood, when movies were silent and stuntmen were expendable. Bedridden Roy (Lee Pace) is recuperating at a hospital after a suicidal stunt. There he befriends Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), an adorable and perpetually nosy girl who is recovering from a broken arm. Hoping to con Alexandria into stealing morphine from the medicine ward, Roy concocts an epic tale for her, one involving dashing heroes, men who burst forth from burning trees, a princess doomed by her engagement, and a villain aptly named Governor Odious.
As with Singh's previous work, the visuals in The Fall are something to behold. Every frame has been meticulously crafted; every scene bursts with imagination. The primary colors and absurdly exotic locations pop from the screen, and the story's many false starts, quick rewrites, and major plot holes perfectly match the nature of a wild bedtime story cooked up on the fly.
It's when matters return to unimaginative reality, however, that Singh's film begins to fray. Though he wisely stays with Alexandria's point of view as much as possible, the plot feels rushed and never quite jells, as though Singh were too enamored with the possibilities of the fantasy to be bothered with the reality. The result is a film messy and unfocused on every front, with only Roy's story having the benefit of being intentionally so. Because of this rather major flaw, The Fall winds up a failure. Thankfully, it's one of the most beautiful, original, and worthwhile failures you'll ever see.