ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Burton’s latest Fish makes a fantastic catch
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison
Lohman, Danny Devito, Steve Buscemi
By Brent Carpenter
AT ALL THE PRETTY LIGHTS! The stars shine on Ewan McGregor, who stars
in Tim Burton’s Big Fish — one of the few McGregor films
where he doesn’t show his big... you know.
Edward Bloom (Finney) has spent much of his life recounting tales of adventures
to those around him, most notably his son Will (Crudup). However, Will grows
tired of his father’s stories, finding it impossible to relate to a man
he only knows through fairy tales and exaggerated delusions of grandeur.
As a result, the film opens with Will estranged from his father, working as
a journalist in Paris. Upon receiving word that Edward is laying on his deathbed,
Will returns home and attempts to finally separate the fact from the fiction
of his father’s past.
The basic idea of Fish is that every person is remembered through stories,
and Edward Bloom has more stories than a person can possibly remember. For
Edward, it’s all in the telling. The majority of the film takes place
through flashbacks, as the elderly Edward makes use of the attention he receives
from his illness by once again narrating some of his favorite tales.
The younger Edward is played at various ages by McGregor, keen on reminding
audiences that he’s more than Obi Wan Kenobi; Big Fish is a solid addition
to the list of his non-Star Wars hits.
It’s also good to see Burton directing a script that aspires to more
than just visuals. One of the most consistently imaginative and all-around
successful (financially and critically) directors in Hollywood, Burton’s
ability to direct from a strong screenplay actually seems limited. Ed Wood
and Edward Scissorhands are exceptions. The remainder of his films are mainly
about production value and entertainment — Beetle Juice, the two Batman
films and Sleepy Hollow come to mind.
A film about storytelling, however, has to start with an intriguing story.
Fortunately, Edward’s stories are so fantastical they allow Burton to
explore the strange visual environments that helped to make him — the
subject of his own discourse in the first place.
Big Fish is so light-hearted you often forget about the dark subject matter
at the centre of the story. You get caught up in Edward’s past adventures
forgetting that his own personal story is coming to a close. To some, the parallel
narratives might not complement each other as much as they should, as some
areas of the film seem slightly disjointed.
Like Will, viewers may begin to feel as though Edward’s stories go a
little overboard; then again, that may be the point.
As far as performances go, Finney is the anchor of the film. British-born
Finney sounds as if he has a Southern accent; the majority of the film’s
cast sound as if they’re doing a Southern accent. That’s still
not to say they aren’t effective in their roles. Crudup (Almost Famous)
works well in a role that calls for him to be more conflicted than likeable,
and Alison Lohman (White Oleander, Matchstick Men) is cast perfectly. She seems
to have come out of nowhere in the past year; hopefully she’ll stick
around for a while. Lange, a veteran actress, also does a good job with a limited
role as Will’s mother.
Edward’s idea seems to be that even the most fantastical fictions are
based on truth. There’s obvious metaphorical significance to much of
what’s in the film, and what’s not acting as a metaphor will probably
be made so through endless debate and deconstruction of Burton’s unique
In the end, Big Fish isn’t really as deep and philosophical as it is
simply a straightforward, good-hearted modern fairy tale. Though it may come
off as strange to some, the over-the-top feel and great supporting cast — not
to mention its mostly unique and interesting visuals — make it a strong