One of Tim Burton’s best films, this Southern gothic fairy tale is as visually spellbinding as you knew it would be, but it’s so much more.
A truly original film from Tim Burton. Based on Daniel Wallace’s novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, this may be the most realistic film Burton has ever made, which is honestly funny when you consider the nature of this story.
Big Fish is a winding, epic tale, moving easily between realism and fantasy as it portrays the entire life of one extraordinary man, Edward Bloom. Edward’s whole life has been a series of larger-than-life events, or at least that’s how he’s portrayed them, much to the frustration of his son Will. Will grew up in awe of his father’s tall tales, but grew increasingly weary of them as he got older, feeling that the extraordinary life his father rhapsodized about was more important to the man than the family he left behind on his constant business trips.
The men fall out at Will’s wedding, but when Edward’s health deteriorates, Will returns to his estranged and now terminally ill father. Now an expectant father himself, Will presses to learn who his father really is and find the truth behind the old man’s myths.
It’s a detailed synopsis because it’s a rich story, full of unique characters, momentous events, times and locales. It’s a very ambitious film, although it must have seemed less so coming after Tim Burton’s previous film, the disastrous Planet of the Apes.
Burton is much more at home in this tale, with its quirky characters. But it is far from a typical Tim Burton movie. Yes, Helena Bonham Carter is here and he brings back Danny DeVito, but it contains little else of his usual hallmarks. (Ok, Danny Elfman does the music, but it’s not your typical quirky Elfman-esque score.)
The film is equal parts fantasy and reality, and acquits itself well with both. You know Burton knows how to do the visually gorgeous stuff. What impresses is his equal mastery of the small moments in the “real world”.
Visually, the movie is a delight. Burton first used DP Philippe Rousselot on his crap ape movie (which at least looked good) and this second collaboration is much more fruitful. (They’d team up one more time for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)
The visuals are a bit showy and would risk overwhelming the story in any other film, but this story is so mythic in its nature that it is the perfect complement to the narrative. You’re drawn in to this mystical tale just as the audience of Edward’s stories is and it’s easy to see why the yarns he spins have such sway.
The film has truly inspired casting – the younger counterparts of Albert Finney and Jessica Lange, played by Ewan McGregor and Alison Lohman, respectively, are perfect. Lohman in particular looks eerily like Lange.Mc
McGregor is one of my favorite actors, and really shines here, but really everyone is fantastic. While he gets the most to do, Billy Crudup is the glue that holds the story together as Will Bloom, giving the story its grounding.
Finney and Lange have some wonderful scenes together, as Finney also does with Will’s lovely wife Joséphine (Marion Cotillard).
The ensemble is filled out with great performances by Danny DeVito as the circus ringmaster who sets Edward on the path to his future wife; Steve Buscemi as poet turned bank robber turned businessman Norther Winslow, and Bonham Carter in dual roles. A larger cast of characters is headlined by the late Matthew McGrory as the gentle giant Karl.
Screenwriter John August adapted the novel with obvious affection and it really deserved more recognition from the Academy. (The film received a single nomination for Elfman’s score.)
The story simple is marvelous, and the way it twists and turns, jumping from present to past, fairy tale to family drama makes it one of the finest efforts in Burton’s career.
The Representation Test Score: B (8 pts)
|Main Cast||Ewan McGregor Ed Bloom – Young, Albert Finney Ed Bloom – Senior, Billy Crudup Will Bloom, Jessica Lange Sandra Bloom – Senior|
|Release Date||Fri 09 Jan 2004 UTC|
|Genres||Adventure, Drama, Fantasy|
|Plot||A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.|
|Tagline||An adventure as big as life itself.|
|Writers||Daniel Wallace (novel), John August (screenplay)|