Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Billy Crudup, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi.
Real life will never be as interesting as our dream world. It might present us with situations and locations far exceeding our expectations and may surprise us immensely with new creations, but it will never replace the outrageous and completely supernatural boundaries of our inner mind. Big Fish is a major celebration of the importance of that tiny little world we hold so close to ourselves. It is a magical journey through the imaginative and colorful fairytale-like events that surround a manís life with the more realistic depictions of his present and mixes it up with great joy in a way that magically boggles the mind of the viewer and delivers one of the most astonishing and effective drama/fantasy films of the year.
It is somewhat troubling for me that it has received such mixed reviews by film critics who are supposed to be doing the job because of their affection for movies. In a way, the wide imagination of the story cheerfully embraces the limitless grounds of our creativity and is somewhat of a nod to the expanding greatness of cinema, a medium that allows people to actually visualize imagination in full throttle. Some one who considers him or herself to be a film lover not loving this movie is against the basic laws of physics.
Big Fish follows the eccentric and exaggerated adventures of Edward Bloom, a local town hero who embarks on a more adult and more mystical mother goose-style journey. Meanwhile, the more ďrealisticĒ part of the story involves the present with old Edwardís son trying to figure out his fatherís actual life, the one that lies underneath the outrageous stories before he passes away. It is with these scenes that the film is grounded pretty much into reality that runs alongside the fantasy sequences. But itís in the larger-than-life story of Edward Bloom that turns the film into a Burton classic and delivers the gems for the movie. The Fairytale portion of the film is, in a sense, very episodic with each segment conjuring up their own magical elements. My favorites among them are the ones about the gentle giant and the Siamese twins. There are also very elegantly told stories concerning how Edward found his wife and how he captured the most notorious fish in the town.
In a strange way, the way Edward tells his stories makes a lot of sense. Throughout the movie, I did believe in certain elements of it. I mean after all, it is possible that he might have gone to war and worked in a church and I do believe that in a way, it really can be his life story, told only by his own point-of view. We always tend to think and lament on the absolute best that could have happened to us and relate it on real memories and thatís what Edward does. In his stories he becomes the quintessential popular boy, lover, friend, war hero and father in such bombastic ways that it crosses into fantasy where nothing that actually happened could have been realistically possible. When the audience might ask for a cognitive finale, the outcome becomes more blurry and unrealistic as it can possibly be. It like it has a complete answer, and some viewers might come to that conclusion, but for me it just seems to be the culmination of the passing of the torch between father and son. It has an ending that is both sad and equally hopeful and is very hard to achieve this perfectly.
This is a great vehicle for Tim Burton to slide into the Academy Award style respect he has long deserved. He slipped around it with Ed Wood but with Big Fish he looks to be a shoo-in for at least a nomination (Looks like Pete Jacksonís gonna win the big ones this year). Not that Big Fish is necessarily a better film than Ed Wood (which is still my favorite Burton film) but it perfectly combines Burtonís penchant for fantasy and creative visuals with his rare outlook on life and drama. Think of Nightmare Before Christmas mixed in with a more grounded version of Edward Scissorhands and you get the idea.
Big Fish is a rare gem that challenges the boundaries of storytelling. It is not for everyone. Only for the unforgiving conjurers of the unbarring imagination.
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