Big Fish | Tim Burton, 2003
Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors because he is great at making the kind of movies he makes, and doesn’t let go of that. However, if you were to ask some film connoisseurs what they think Burton’s best film is, they’d respond with one of the two films that marked a departure from his dark story telling, Ed Wood and Big Fish. I would agree with those that think that the latter is indeed his best.
Big Fish tells the story of the life of Edward Blood. When he was young (and played by Ewan McGregor), he was a hot shot in his small town, so he decides to see the world, only to get sidetracked by the person he would marry. His older self (played by Alber Finney) is dying of cancer, and his son desperately want the true version of all the stories he has told him throughout his life. Throughout the movie Edward’s version of his life is told, and in the wonderful end we get to decide whether we like his version or the true version.
What Burton does best is create movies that rely more on their visuals than the story. This time, he has a great story to work with that only relies on his style for about 25% of the movie. For the rest, we get to see him brach out and just focus on the characters rather than the elaborate sets. Yes the movie is beautiful, but the most touch scenes (aside from the end) are ones that rely on the connection between two characters in a barren room, and he handles those perfectly. In the end, great visuals are used, but he still focuses on the characters, which was the right call. None of these scenes would have worked without the actors
Ewan McGreagor and Albert Finney are great at capturing the charm in Edward Bloom. However, Finney stands out because he also has to show us the Edward that is dying and has to stop being charming when his son tries to get the truth out of him. There are also great supporting performances from Jessica Lange, Danny Devito, Steve Buschemi, and Helena Bonham Carter. Also, I will forever love this movie for introducing me to the great talent that is is Marion Cottillard.
On the technical side, it is as beautiful as any other Burton movie. The sets, the costumes, the cinematography, the make-up, all great. I must single out the music. Danny Elfman’s score is among the best of the decade (and deserved to win an Oscar), and Pearl Jam’s original song, “Man of the Hour,” packs a great emotional punch as it plays after that great finale.
Big Fish is one of the top 10 movies of the decade. It’s great story and themes combined with Burton’s vision makes this an unforgettable experience.