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  Edward Scissorhands The Unkindest Cut
Year: 1990
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Robert Oliveri, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aaron, Dick Anthony Williams, O-Lan Jones, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Susan Blommaert, Linda Perri, John Davidson, Biff Yeagher
Genre: Comedy, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: It's time for bed, but this little girl wants her grandmother to tell her a story before she goes to sleep, so she obliges with something that happened during her youth. Her mother, Peg (Dianne Wiest) was an Avon lady, and after one day of visiting her neighbourhood and finding nobody willing to buy her products, she decided to take a chance on the mansion house that sat atop the mountain overlooking the town. Nobody really knew who lived there, but she was confident that someone resided within its forbidding walls, and after inviting herself in she made her way up to the attic and had a surprise...

There were not a whole lot of people sure what to make of Edward Scissorhands when it was first released: the reception can best be described as mixed. They liked the carefully rendered appearance of the film, but the most common complaints were either that it was too ornately fashioned to move as it set out to do, or that that it suffered a self-pitying quality that was hard to get past. Over the years, it became a cult movie, and its director Tim Burton, working with fellow scriptwriter Caroline Thompson, was a talent that audience around the world became a lot more used to, which could explain why this work saw its cachet rise.

It remains a deceptively strange film, taking place in some kind of limbo that can feature a candy-coloured suburbia from the sixties, a castle right out of a nineteen-thirties horror movie, and a number of trappings that set this somewhere around 1990, but never settling on one in particular. Its main character was taciturnly played by Johnny Depp, illustrating his increasing willingness not to go for the obvious in his leading man choices, and starting his long-running professional partnership with Burton that proved to be one of the most fruitful of their era. Depp captured the gentle anxiety of Edward without making him too pathetic, so when he begins to feel genuine emotion, most likely so will you.

For the opening half, that emotion would probably have been delight, as this could be a very witty film with some big laughs at the expense of a main character who they acknowledge is ridiculous. Scissors for hands? What kind of inventor would even think that was a good idea, even if he was played by that seasoned movie madman, Vincent Price, here in his final role? But to go along with this you had to accept a degree of fairy tale logic, and while the absurdity of Edward's predicament is hard to take seriously on the surface, crucially it was something the film made us believe in thanks to some lovingly crafted art design, committed performances (Wiest, Alan Arkin as her unfazed husband and Kathy Baker as a local busybody are especially excellent) and a plot that turned graver the longer it was pursued.

After all, if you wanted it you could see this as allegorical territory, as many of the best fairy tales were - the Christ story, the struggle of the artist, that sort of thing - but perhaps it operated best as a study of the outsider in general, realising that while they had their own novelty value, it was just one step away from being an outcast if you truly had problems fitting in. Edward is adopted by Peg, who like a doting mother sees the best in him when all around are losing their faith, and there he meets Kim (Winona Ryder), her teenage daughter who is running with meanminded boyfriend Anthony Michael Hall. In spite of its sweet appearance, Edward Scissorhands was actually very cynical about human nature, depicting in its updated Frankenstein way that the majority's suspicion and inability to believe the best of people are what inform public opinion, as Edward is forced to live down to their lowering expectations. And so he has to stay an exile, with only his sculptures for company, and the memories of the girl he loved but was unable to get close to: just the kind of bittersweet ending that the best fables had. Ethereal music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Tim Burton  (1958 - )

American director, producer and writer, frequently of Gothic flavoured fantasy who has acquired a cult following in spite of the huge mainstream success of many of his projects. He began as an animator at Disney, who allowed him to work on his own projects while animating the likes of The Fox and the Hound, which garnered the attention of Paul Reubens to direct Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Next up was supernatural comedy Beetle Juice, leading to the massively hyped Batman and Batman Returns; in the middle was a more personal project, the melancholy Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood was a biopic of the world's worst director, a flop with a loyal following, Mars Attacks was an alien invasion spoof that got lost in the Independence Day publicity, and Burton ended the 1990s with hit horror Sleepy Hollow.

The 2000s saw the poorly received Planet of the Apes remake, but Big Fish, a father and son tale more personal to the director fared better. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was unsatisfying, but a success, and Sweeney Todd was another collaboration with frequent leading man Johnny Depp. Burton hasn't turned his back on animation, mind you, with both The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride fast becoming cult favourites.

A reimagining of Alice in Wonderland rewarded him with a further hit, though again reaction was mixed, as it was with horror soap adaptation Dark Shadows and animated update Frankenweenie. He returned to biopic territory with Big Eyes, then next was young adult fantasy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and one of those Disney juggernauts, the live action remake of Dumbo.

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