Big fish Review and Opinion


Big Fish (2004)
Director: Tim Burton

review by Debbie Moon

Edward Bloom is a big fish in a small pond. All his life, he's entertained his family with tales of his fantastical past: how he began his career in the circus, rescued a giant, battled for the woman of his dreams, and almost found paradise in a small Alabama town. Now he's dying, and his estranged son Will has returned home to try to make up with a man he considers feckless and selfish. But Will begins to suspect there's something more behind his father's fanciful stories - a shadow of reality that may help him to understand the man. Perhaps the only way to understand Ed Bloom is to try to finish his story for him...
   Big Fish is Tim Burton's best film in years. Combining the menacing imagination of Edward Scissorhands with the commercial instincts of the Batman movies, Burton has created his own take on It's A Wonderful Life - lighter on the sentiment and more complex and forgiving than Capra's parable. Edward Bloom is a man who knows he has failed in many ways, and yet, as Will discovers, those failures were part of the price for the good he has done.
   But above all, Big Fish is a story about stories: why we tell them, what they say about us, and how sometimes, fantasy is the only way to capture the true meaning of real events. The film looks fantastic: combining storybook terrors with 1950s' style idealised American life, all bright colours and smiling faces. But this is a film that leaves plenty of room for the actors. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney provide the backbone of the story as the younger and older Edward, a shared performance of mischievous charm and real warmth. Against that kind of competition, Billy Crudup just about rescues Will from coming across as humourless and self-righteous, while Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman share the role of Sandra, Edward's long-suffering true love. Even Burton regular Helena Bonham Carter gets in on the act, with a pivotal role as an evil witch (!) whose role in Edward's life Will must uncover.
   If the film has a weakness, it is that it seems to expect us to empathise with Will, but our sympathies actually lie with Edward throughout, and that Will's feud with his father seems to have little basis in real injuries. Most people would be very happy to have Albert Finney's Edward as their father, even if he does go on a bit! But overall, Burton has created a moving and very satisfying film about the place of fantasy in everyone's life. Highly recommended, whether you're normally a Burton fan or not.

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