“Beauty and the Beast,” but with more knives.
I’m a big fan of Tim Burton. Beetlejuice (1988) is a Halloween classic, Batman Returns (1992) is legit one of my favourite superhero movies ever, and I think the eclectic director’s take on Alice in Wonderland (2010) is actually pretty cool. As great as my adoration for Burton is, I’m ashamed to say that until recently, I had never seen one of his early classics. So when my friend Christiane requested that I review Edward Scissorhands (1990), I marched straight to my local library and searched the shelves. After watching Burton and Johnny Depp’s first collaboration, I’m proud to say that my love for the filmmaker remains in tact. By the way, if YOU have any requests for a movie you want to see me review for Wayback Wednesday, feel free to let me know on Twitter or Instagram!
Edward Scissorhands tells the tale of the titular character, an artificially created human who lives a solitary life in a mansion high on a hill. Though his monstrous appearance scare most away, compassionate Avon saleswoman Peg Boggs sees Edward as harmless and invites him to live with her and her family. He then attempts to assimilate to regular life in a modern suburban neighbourhood.
Say what you want about Tim Burton, but there’s no denying that the man is a true visionary. Though recent directorial efforts such as Dark Shadows (2012) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) were met with a less than warm reception, Burton’s movies are still unique and practically their own genre. Each share a distinct style and feel that ensures that even if the story is lacking, the movie as a whole is still a visual delight. With Edward Scissorhands, Burton delivers both a heartwarming story and a feast for the eyes. Hauntingly beautiful, this movie does a fantastic job of blending both Gothic and pop art inspired elements to create a world that only an original like Burton could have imagined. Watching one of Burton’s movies is like stepping into a modern art gallery.
Breathtaking production design is not the only trademark of Burton’s in Edward Scissorhands. Johnny Depp, who has starred in eight of the director’s movies, shines in the lead role, a daring departure from his role as heartthrob Tom Hanson on the original 21 Jump Street (1987 – 1991). As the lovably odd Edward, Depp really gets to demonstrate the range of his acting ability. As his character is practically mute, Depp spends the majority of his scenes conveying emotion through quick glances, fleeting smiles, and timid movements. I read that to prepare for the role, Depp studied Charlie Chaplin movies so that he could create sympathy without dialogue. Well Mr. Depp, mission accomplished. Even when given only a few lines of dialogue, the childlike innocence that Depp is able to get across completely draws you into the character and has you hoping that he’ll find his own happy ending. Speaking of, this movie is fully a dark, modern fairytale. I feel like in that regard, Burton and Guillermo del Toro are kindred spirits, crafting stories that are the folklore and cautionary tales of our time.
Having never seen the movie before, there were plenty of things that I was shocked and surprised by. I didn’t know how laugh-out-loud funny it was going to be, how much I would come to care about Edward and his well-being, or how badly I would want to take up hedge sculpting as a hobby. My plan is to start simple with spherical designs and then work my way up to dinosaurs. By the way, if you value your landscape, don’t let me practice on your hedges.
But what I found most surprising about Edward Scissorhands was how filled it was with familiar faces. Obviously you have the phenomenal Winona Ryder as Edward’s love interest Kim Boggs, but I was also delighted to see that Dianne Wiest, Alan Arkin, and Vincent freaking Price all have parts in this movie!
Dianne Wiest: The Birdcage (1996), Practical Magic (1998) and Dan in Real Life (2007).
Alan Arkin: Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Get Smart (2008).
Vincent Price: Horror icon.
I love this group of actors. By the way, definitely check out Vincent Price in the original House of Wax (1953). It’s so creepy. I watched the end of it one Halloween, and had nightmares for a week.
The entire cast is sensational to watch, but it’s really Wiest and Ryder who are most enjoyable, probably because their characters are given the storylines with more emotional weight. As Peg, Wiest is charming, adorable, and the perfect loving mohter figure. It’s no wonder that Edward trusted this stranger and agreed to live with her. If Dianne Wiest wanted to take me home and live with her family, I’d happily accept. I’d even try to repay her with ornate hedge sculptures. Ryder is simply spellbinding and delivers a performance that is reminiscent of film ingenues of Hollywood’s golden age, mixed with the spunky and rebellious roles that became increasingly popular for young heroines in the 1990s. The Beauty to Depp’s Beast, Ryder’s chemistry with Depp is enchanting. She’s been absolutely killing the game lately in the mega-hit Stranger Things (2016 – present) and I’d be so down to see her team up with Burton again for another movie that questions the normalcy of society. Also, she looked gorgeous as a redhead in this movie.
There’s a lot of ambiguity to this movie such as the time period and setting, and for me, that makes Burton’s work all the more intriguing. I like to imagine that all of his movies exist within a shared universe or an alternate timeline. Oooh, with cinematic universes being all the rage these days, why haven’t any studios tasked Burton with creating one made up of of original properties? Honestly though, maybe Universal should hire him to restructure the Dark Universe. Oh my God, remember The Mummy (2017)? Why they thought anyone could fill Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz’s shoes remains a mystery to me.
An original and wonderfully weird idea from one of the most fascinating directors of our time, Edward Scissorhands is brilliant. Burton juggles the simplicity of the movie’s narrative with complex themes of what it means to be human and the end result is a 90s classic that isn’t to be forgotten any time soon. One final thought, if I were to meet Edward in real-life, I’d be far more creeped out by his BDSM costume than his scissorhands.
What’s your favourite Tim Burton movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!