Edward Bloom, almost literally paralyzed by a growth spurt
(at least as he tells it), spent his days reading the encyclopedia.
One day he read the passage that gave him inspiration - that
the goldfish will grow to incredible size if given enough
room. And so the boy vows to set his sights high, and make
sure that his horizons are broad enough to allow him to become
a big fish.
reality might intrude won't stop him. Indeed, in grand American
tradition, facts cannot get in the way of truth, as he weaves
stories about himself that step to the edge of the fantastic,
and more often than not leap over. But when we meet Edward
(Albert Finney) in Big Fish, his greatness has trouble
Will (an earnest and unchallenged Billy Crudup) realizes that
all he has ever heard from his father are the tall tales of
his past. With time running out, Will, a reporter, tries to
glean little nuggets of his father's history from the stories
that by now everybody in the family tells.
Will's exploration, we journey in and out of the past, to
the days of Edward the bright young man (Ewan McGregor). And
if the audience starts losing track of what is "real" and
what is not, it doesn't really matter. The film knows, and
it's willing to tell if you're willing to listen.
the indifferent exercise of Planet of the Apes, director
Tim Burton has once again sunk his teeth into a project that
obviously matters to him. Like Edward Scissorhands,
Big Fish tells of a man who has much to give, and yet
has trouble touching the people closest to him. Without the
handicap of having tools for hands, though.
from a whimsical but weighty script by John August, Burton
recaptures the quirks that made him a filmmaker worth watching
in the first place. His eye may wander into the macabre, but
he can't help making it strangely charming. For one of the
few times in his career, he keeps his focus on the emotions
of the piece. If one didn't know better, one might even say
he cares about Edward Bloom - but more of a breakthrough,
he cares about Will.
has its shares of grotesques, a factor which Burton obviously
found intriguing. As a boy, Edward dares face the town witch
(Helena Bonham-Carter), whose glass eye can show you how you
will die. The glimpse makes him fearless, allowing him to
face down giants, circus freaks, and a few supernatural foes.
Oh, yes, and the North Vietnamese, in a dryly funny sequence
set during Edward's military career that still allows for
an element out of the ordinary.
is much beauty, too, especially in Edward's courtship of the
love of his life Sandra, played by Alison Lohman in flashback
and Jessica Lange in present day. Seeing Ewan McGregor flashing
his earnest Superman grin in a field of daffodils will melt
female hearts all over. But guys, be warned. Big Fish
will squeeze your tearducts, too. As Edward's tales weave
tighter and tighter, August's screenplay turns from whimsy
to sentiment. Even as Burton's imagery stays firmly in the
fantastical, August, adapting a novel by Daniel Wallace, has
a few truths of his own to impart. It's Field of Dreams
for those of us who throw like girls.
of it is left between the lines, such as how the brash and
dashing McGregor could grow into the far crustier Finney.
Then again, how many men and women have great public faces
but fail on the most intimate levels?
us through such questions and filling in the cracks are top-notch
performances all around. Though their southern accents waver
from time to time, Finney and McGregor fill Edward with a
great life force. I may have asked this before, but come on,
when is somebody going to put McGregor in a superhero role?
He excels at these larger-than-life parts. Being Obi-Wan Kenobi
doesn't count, because George Lucas keeps flattening out McGregor's
Lohman and Lange share the luminosity of their character.
Finally getting to play an her age (the 24-year-old played
ten years younger in Matchstick Men), Lohman gets one
of the best screen entrances this year, making a haunting
vision of true loveliness.
the character actors that make this film really run. Matthew
McGrory exudes charm as Karl, the giant that first terrorizes
Edward's hometown, then becomes one of his closest friends.
Burton allows old friend Danny DeVito to run from sinister
to kind in a role as a mysterious circus ringmaster. Just
passing through in more ways than one, Steve Buscemi steals
every scene he can. And singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright
III seems to have found himself a new career as a friendly
no movies really have a long theatrical life anymore, it's
no crime to say I can hardly wait for Big Fish to hit
video. It's worth watching again and again. Put it in a triple
feature with Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Edward
Scissorhands, and it's a mini-festival of the quintessential
it's good to have him back.