Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Alan Arkin
Tim Burton, Catherine Thompson
20th Century Fox
It is only in a Tim Burton world that such a scenario could begin a film...we have a dark, gothic looking castle sitting in the midst of small-town America. It is unlike any other home in the town, and it clearly is a place to be avoided. It exudes darkness and isolation. Yet, in a Tim Burton world nothing is untouchable and no place is unreachable. So, we become witness to the town's ever present Avon Lady (Dianne Wiest) walking dutifully to the door, knocking on the door and meeting its sole inhabitant, Edward (Johnny Depp).
Wiest is, perhaps, the perfect actress to play this role as she herself presents as eccentric yet strangely maternal. She listens to Edward unlike anyone probably ever has, and she learns that he was created in a laboratory, however, before he could be finished his creator (Vincent Price) died leaving him with scissors for hands.
She becomes the protector of Edward and takes him home to her family, a spouse (Alan Arkin) and daughter (Winona Ryder). Much of the first half of the film involves Edward's transition to a more socialized existence, and the natural curiosity of the neighbors, ranging from a nosy Joyce (Cathy Baker) to a wide range of others. In many ways, Edwards becomes accepted for his gifts with his hands, especially for lawn decoration. His scenes with Winona Ryder are quite tender, and scenes with neighborhood children of great innocence.
Yet,being in small-town America always exacts a price. Edward becomes the object of ridicule and hatred of Jim, a town bully (Anthony Michael Hall).
Here is where the script from Burton and Caroline Thompson begins to do a slow fade into mediocrity. Where the first 2/3 of the film had been unique, innovative, touching and imaginative, the latter 1/3 of the film becomes stereotypical Hollywood and the ending itself feels largely plastered on and created only for marketing purposes. It is, in my opinion, where the film loses its potential for greatness.
As with nearly all Burton films, "Edward Scissorhands" is beautiful to behold with stunning cinematography, art design, costume design and production values. Burton always has a stunning vision and the ability to create that vision within the context of film. Yet, "Edward Scissorhands" also reveals Burton's willingness to occasionally dip into his barrel of cliche's in order to finish a story. Furthermore, he occasionally rests on the style of his film instead of using that style to enhance the development of his characters. Thus, towards the end when we are forced to deal with Edward's conflicts it is difficult to become emotionally involved in the scenario.
Johnny Depp is simply marvelous in the role of Edward. Long a courageous actor, Depp inhabits a character that by all accounts should have been a freak or caricature. Instead, Depp gives Edward a soulfulness and depth that makes you ache for him until the final third of the film.
"Edward Scissorhands" is a special film. It's a unique, lovely and enchanting Burton vision brought to life beautifully. Bordering on masterpiece, but nearly sabotaged by the final third of the film, "Edward Scissorhands" will move you even when the script fails him. In a time when too many films fall into the cookie cutter studio formulas, "Edward Scissorhands" is a reminder of the power of a unique story and a grand vision to entertain and inspire.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic