Sunday, May 29, 2011

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands is Tim Burton at his most Tim Burtoniest, creating an unusual setting that combines quaint suburbia and the horrific creation of a mad scientist into something of a dark fairy tale that isn't really that dark. Despite Edward's appearance, the movie makes even less of an attempt to really be scary than Beetlejuice, preferring to tell a nice, traditional story using some unusual pieces. Although the Tim Burton look seems to be getting old to a lot of people at this point, I thought it really worked great in this movie. The art direction is outstanding, from the pastel colored identical houses in the neighborhood to the creepy surreal architecture of Edward's mansion to the artistry of his gardening and hairstyling. No other movie looks like it, and that helps a lot to sell the idea.

The movie has a great cast, too. Johnny Depp is great as Edward, pensive and innocent but not without something unusual behind it. I think his biggest skill is how he can take any character and just become them. The family he stays with is filled with recognizable faces, Winona Ryder does her part of being pretty and having a believable arc to her friendship with Edward. Diane Wiest and Alan Arkin are her parents, and the way they take Edward in without question is one of my favorite elements of the story. Vincent Price is only seen in flashback as Edward's creator, but he's Vincent Price, and it's pretty amusing to see how in five years Anthony Michael Hall went from playing the geek in The Breakfast Club to playing the jock here.

Although the story is a bit frustrating in how it relies on idiotic townspeople to create conflict, it's still an interesting look at how acceptance can turn into fear without much provocation. Like a lot of fairy tales it's pretty bittersweet, and the look and score both do a lot sell it. Some of the best work by Burton and a lot of his collaborators here. I've seen most of the feature films he's directed and as of yet he's never blown me away, but I have to appreciate any film maker who is more concerned with exploring his own ideas than changing them to fit the institution, even if he's an institution himself now.

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