Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Tim Burton - delightful visionary, or simple-minded storyteller with flair? I'm not sure, but I like his style. In Edward Scissorhands, perhaps his most dazzling live-action visual fantasy, he takes what might have been an original short story idea and stretches the audience to breaking point, with a blunt climax.

It's a charming idea for a fable. Peg, an Avon lady, calls at a nearby abandoned gothic castle and finds an artificial man, Edward (Johnny Depp). His creator, The Inventor (Vincent Price) died before Edward's completion, leaving him with razor-sharp scissors instead of hands. Peg takes pity on the lonely Edward and runs him home to meet her family: husband Bill, son Kevin and teenage sexpot Kim (Winona Ryder). One look at her and Edward is justifiably smitten.

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The first two-thirds of the film sees Edward being accepted by the family and neighbours and finding sitcom-style solutions to problems that would usually require fingers to solve. Depp handles this fish-out-of-water characterisation well and shows us a strangely emotional core with which we easily bond. Almost every gesture has a sincerity and barely contained incomprehension to it. Even his face, webbed with deep gashes and scars, has a marvellous innocence.

Burton's gift is that of passionate and intricately realised visuals. His lavish set and character designs, the solid performance by Depp and a surprising lightness of touch in the darkness of the world. For example, the opening shot of the neighbourhood - so obviously a model, and yet he doesn't try to hide it. Burton embraces the artificiality of the movie world; this place could only exist in the movies.

By contrasting an artificial man with the real but unsubtly false men and women of the world and their queer existences, Burton presents satire with a dull thud. I don't have too many issues with the plot, except for the conclusion and thinly wrought complications and contrivances for the hero and damsel. The ending is so wrought and obvious it makes you grind your teeth in rage at being treated as though you don't appreciate the subtle skill of Burton's prior work in the movie. A claptrap Hollywood ending.

Edward Scissorhands is often bewitching in its telling, but it lacks the courage to substantiate its entertainingly quixotic visuals.

Reviewed on: 23 Dec 2006
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An intrepid Avon lady enters her local Gothic castle to find a lonely young home-made man with scissors for hands.
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