Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Unspeakable And Unrelenting Sadness Of Edward Scissorhands

The Good: Tone, Directing, Acting, Look, Most characters
The Bad: Contrived opening, Moments of soundtrack, Winona Ryder's character
The Basics: An occasionally inconsistent work, Edward Scissorhands follows a quasi-man's attempts to adapt to society and all its mixed messages.

Having seen the magnificent Beetlejuice and Batman Returns and being disappointed by the less-than-extraordinary The Nightmare Before Christmas, I sat down with mixed emotions to Edward Scissorhands. In truth, I had some expectations for the film; I had enjoyed Johnny Depp in Blow, I loved Burton and Elfman's vision in Batman Returns, and I had read positive things about Edward Scissorhands.

Edward Scissorhands opens with one of the most unfortunately contrived beginnings of any film. Instead of slipping from the dark opening credits to the tacky bright houses of suburbia, the film starts with a withered old woman telling her granddaughter where snow comes from. Then the rest of the film becomes a flashback and we meet Peg Boggs.

Peg Boggs is a mother of two, happily married, unsuccessfully attempting to sell Avon cosmetics. Trying to make the last sale, Peg goes up to the town's local abandoned mansion and discovers Edward. Edward is a constructed man, whose fingers are scissors. In an act of characteristic compassion, Peg insists the isolated Edward return home with her.

Edward is then thrust into a neighborhood where he experiences his rise and fall. He is adored and fascinated by the neighbors, feared by the conservatives and lusts after Peg's daughter Kim.

The problem with the film is that it's oversimplified in the most important aspects. Edward, an abandoned man, becomes enamored with Kim on looks alone. It makes little sense that Edward would conform to society's and Hollywood's notions of beauty. Kim is superficial, though adequately played by Winona Ryder. Ryder plays the role well, but Kim embodies the worst of teenagers. It is through Kim that Edward experiences his worst moments of humanity.

The only other serious flaw is the soundtrack. I never thought I'd say that about an Elfman work. The truth is there are noticeable moments that the music doesn't fit the visual moment of the film.

What does work is the tone. Edward Scissorhands is easily one of the saddest films of all time. Edward begins as an object of fascination and quickly becomes a commodity. He is used, reviled and suspected. That he often allows bad things to happen to him makes his character even more lamentable. Anyone who has an appreciation for how individuals are robbed of their uniqueness and crapped upon by society will be crying from about the first hour.

The film is visually spectacular. It creates a time and place perfectly and the contrasts of the bright houses and the darkness of the hill it is near (and Edward himself). The acting is all great. Johnny Depp is fabulous as Edward, Diane Wiest is great as suburbanite Peg Boggs and Vincent Price steals every scene he's in as The Inventor.

And, as usual, the characters are the important aspect. While I object to Kim Boggs (and her somewhat stodgy and simplistic father, Bill), the bulk of the characters are well-defined and progress the plot well. Peg embodies much of the best of humanity and her opportunistic neighbor, Joyce, the worst. Edward provides the perfect floating midpoint, as each influences them.

If you enjoy dark films, ones that will leave you in tears, Edward Scissorhands is a great choice. It has its flaws, but it is a nice movie for any day filled with too much sunshine. I recommend against watching in the darkness; this film has a way of enveloping the viewer.

For other stunningly creative films, please check out my reviews of:
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus
Alice In Wonderland
Repo! The Genetic Opera


For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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