The lives of artists always make great material for films, as they explore their artistic drive, usually against a backdrop of humble beginnings.

It’s surprising then, considering the cultural impact of his work, that the life of Spanish artist Salvador Dali hasn’t found its way onto the big screen more often.

And although not an out and out biography, Canadian director Mary Harron gets to paint a picture of the flamboyant artist in the later stages of his career.

boom reviews Daliland
Oh this thing? I can twirl it for 24 hours straight. Wanna see?

It’s the mid-seventies in NYC, and James (Christopher Briney) has just got a job working in an art gallery. And putting on a show in it shortly is the king of surrealism Salvador Dali (Ben Kingsley), that is if he manages to finish enough work in time to show.

When their paths meet in the office, Dali is immediately taken by the young man, and insists that he becomes his assistant until the show starts, and James readily accepts.

It is an invitation into a world like no other, as James gets a front row seat to Daliland, and all the madness that comes with it.

boom reviews Daliland
It's not very often you see the genitalia depicted in crayon...

If any artist deserves to have a film made about them, it’s Dali. It’s a little questionable as to whether this is that film however, despite the fact its director has dabbled in the art world previously with her 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol.

It is a film that in many ways is quite contrary to Dali himself, with what is a subtle approach to his life. It’s seen through the eyes of his young assistant, entering this bizarre world for the first time. And although it highlights the strange relationship between Dali and his wife and muse Gala (Barbara Sukowa), you get the impression that it doesn’t go nearly deep enough.

In terms of looks, once you see Kingsley in the Dali garb, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing the role. But within the performance itself, it’s a little one-sided, focusing on his vulnerabilities, of which there were seemingly many, including being a hypochondriac. Sadly the brilliance of the man and his work is played down throughout, with barely any of his work even featuring in it.

It’s a film that is crying out to be outrageous in the extreme, but with Harron seemingly pulling back on the reigns constantly, delivering what is a story that is just too darn polite and run of the mill.

She does however treat flashbacks in an intriguing fashion, with Kingsley’s Dali on hand to look back at his younger self, played here by current bad boy Ezra Miller. But knowing Miller’s abilities, it would have been interesting to focus more on the antics of the young Dali in his prime.

Perhaps it was too great an expectation, and that a kind of truth can be found within this middling story, but you can’t help but come away thinking that Dali deserved more of a spectacle – the Baz Luhrmann treatment if you will, to be dazzled by the unexpected.

Far from a great piece of art itself then, Daliland is a trip into a theme park that has seen better days, with all its really big, exciting rides closed, and although you still have a good time, you know in your heart that it’s nowhere near its best.

we give this three out of five