Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Edward Scissorhands


Many things scared me as a child, but rarely did anything frighten me on the nightmare-inducing level of a Tim Burton film. Yes, yes, now I realize he's probably brilliant and his muse Johnny Depp is a dreamboat and Burton can juggle all sorts of complex symbolism and irony, but at the time it was much more like, "Wait, a guy has scissors...for hands? A little kid pulls a shrunken head out of his Christmas present? And God help me if I ever accidentally utter 'Beetlejuice' thrice." Hell, he even scared me a little bit with Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Maybe I was a bit deficient in the imagination department, but these movies scared me to no end. In some ways, I suppose that speaks to their power; Burton's movies are certainly affective. That lingering feeling of creepiness and uneasiness speaks largely to his dark prowess as a filmmaker. Many of these movies that terrified me in my younger years I now recognize as deep and interesting and original. Okay, and a little scary. I'm sorry. Scissors for hands? That's frightening stuff. No two snips about it.

Overall, the film is poignant and touching, which is probably what scared me so much about it in the first place. As a kid, we don't want movies to make us feel. We want them to make us smile as little woodland creatures sing us songs before diving into a wooded thicket. Nuance and subtlety are not exactly the way to a child's heart. I don't know about you, but I was big into happily ever afters, which doesn't tend to happen a lot if a film is trying to make a statement in the way that Edward Scissorhands was.

With this film began the torrid love affair between Depp and Burton that continues to frighten and intrigue us in the present day. Prior to his role in Scissorhands, Depp was something of a teen idol, the likes of whose pinups may have been torn from J17 or Bop! Magazine and plastered the walls of smitten late-80s teenage girls. Depp's roles in TV's 21 Jump Street and the 50's-themed musical Cry-Baby had elevated him to teen hearthrob status, a title that left Depp less than satisfied with his career choices. Determined not to be packaged and sold as a teen stud, his fledgling professional relationship with Burton allowed him to break out of this boxed-in career path. Oh, and frighten some young fans with the cunning use of stage makeup and scissor hands.



How's that trailer for dramatic? I'm a big fan of Danny Elfman themes, but this is really just the heartstring pulliest. You can just tell it's going to be so sad. And a little disconcerting.

Before delving into the movie, here's a handy Arsenio Hall interview with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton regarding Edward Scissorhands. Yes, yes, it's informative, but mainly I've included it because it would undoubtedly win any contest for three best 90s hairstyles ever. Just watch the way Johnny's hair moves. It's very antennae-esque. Sort of frightening, sort of intriguing, oddly attractive. Like Johnny, in the film. You can begin to see why the role was so well-tailored to his personal character.



Edward Scissorhands is ultimately a tragic comedy, as its both heart-wrenching and sort of giggle-inducing. Edward is not actually a man, but an unfinished project of an enterprising inventor, as we learn from our grandmotherly narrator. Following his inventor's death, Edward continues to live in his sprawling mansion unnoticed until the unexpected intrusion of Peg the Avon lady. Peg insists on taking him home with her. And who wouldn't? He's a deathly pale, scar-faced, scissor-handed freak. He definitely sounds like someone I would want around my loved ones in their natural habitat. Well played, Peg. Well played indeed.

Edward had a natural penchant for all sorts of fun clippery, particularly in the areas of foliage manipulation and perm reduction. He is clearly ill at ease while integrated in society, and is largely perplexed by the norms and mores that rule society. He dodges the seduction attempts of a lonely housewife, only to be smacked with rape charges. He helps Peg's daughter's boyfriend in his criminal misdoings and is picked up by the police. The officers, however, declare Edward to be void of a moral compass but believe him to be ultimately good. Those rape accusations weren't winning him any friends, though, and his neighborhood star falls nearly as quickly as it had risen.

After Edward accidentally injures Peg's daughter Kim, her no-good boyfriend Jim is out for revenge. The scene escalates and there are all sorts of misunderstandings that reiterate the townspeople's growing distaste for Edward. In what is turning out to be a fight to the death, Edward kills Jim. Kim and some of his other defenders manage to imply that the two killed each other, but Edward was still alive and doing his snow-making thing. And for your spoiler alert (p.s., you've been alerted), we find out the old woman from the beginning is Kim and she's loved Edward all along, though their ultimately doomed relationship was not conducive to them maintaining their romance. I know, I know. It's sad. I'll give you some time.
We all have those movies that we saw as children that we thought we understood until we saw them as adults and realize we hadn't a clue what was going on. Edward Scissorhands is one of those movies. For anyone who saw the movie at a young age, it was confusing and mildly terrifying. I was vaguely aware that it was supposed to be sad, but I was too worried about the inevitable insomnia-provoking nightmares that were sure to result from hearing that incessant snip-snip-snip sound.

Ultimately, Edward Scissorhands is touching, resonant, and gutsy with its out-on-a-limb themes and metaphors. Okay, so none of us were quick to plaster our walls with Edward Scissorhands pinups*, but it certainly paved the way for both Johnny Depp's and Tim Burton's resultant cinematic successes. Maybe it didn't have the happy ending some of us selfishly demand of movies, but it did have heart. Oh, and scissors. Big, giant scissors.


*Most of us waited until he became a pirate to reinstate his hearthrob status

26 comments:

Nic said...

I've only recently watched this film for the first time. Yes, really.

Useless fact: I have the same birthday as Johnny Depp. Go me!

Emma said...

Joyny Depp... Mmmmmm ;)x

Lil' Woman said...

I'll watch anything that Johnny Depp is in!!! : )

Lauren From Texas said...

I LOVE this movie. I, like Nic, just saw it for the first time - how did I not see this a long time ago?! It's now one of my favorites.

KekeLynn said...

Loved this movie! And I'll be honest, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, if Johnny Depp is in it I will watch it at least 3 times!

Cory said...

This movie is in my list of top five movies (I actually have a list...I'm a freak). It really is a heartbreaking film, though, and it makes me sad every time I think about it. The end, where Kim talks about how she didn't think there would be snow if Edward was dead, is a killer. I'm getting sad just thinking about it.

Cory said...

Also, this is the reason I will always love Winona Ryder, even if she steals every article of clothing from every high end retail store in the world.

Warren said...

Great movie.

It also plays an important role in one of the funniest Seinfeld episodes ever.

for the love of pictures said...

I remember being frightened by practically every Tim Burton film that I saw as a child (and even some of them that I've seen recently). However, even though I was scared or freaked out, I have loved every film that I’ve seen. The way his mind must work :) I also love that he finds a way to repeatedly utilize Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter without it ever seeming stale or forced. Tim Burton is a cinematic genius!

LiLu said...

I think this is my favorite Depp performance of all time. You HAVE to be impressed that he made that hot.

Andhari said...

This definitely provoked my obsession to Johhny Depp.

Heather Taylor said...

I have this movie poster on my wall and was utterly obsessed with this movie when I was little. I really wanted Winona Ryder's white dress that she wore in the ice dance scene.

Couture Carrie said...

Such an incredible film!
Fab post!

xoxox,
CC

Her name was Lola said...

Thanks for visiting, so glad you found me. I adore your blog (almost as much as I adore Mr. Depp as Scissorhands!)

Cheers.

Farrah @ Stylecrumbs said...

I love this film, have watched it sooo many times!

*drool over Johhny Depp* lol

XO
http://stylecrumbs.blogspot.com

Badass Geek said...

My wife loves this movie, but I can never really get into it.

Sadako said...

I never liked that Kim let Edward take the rap for the robbery. Also I love the part where the dad is grilling Edward about morality and what should he do if he finds a suitcase full of money and Edward's all, "Give it to my loved ones?" Awwwww.

For some reason the rape charges thing kind of flew over my head when I was younger...wow. Or maybe they edited that out of the TV version? I've never rented it; just seen it on TV.

OceanDreams said...

Hey thanks for the visit and I'm with you on this film, I actually have been to scared to watch it! Though I have heard that it is touching and I also love Tim Burton's films, but this one I think would cause nightmares. Lol, great writing on this film lady!

Meghan said...

That movie still gives me the chills every times I watch it. So beautiful and haunting.

The Socialite said...

oh I loooove this movie! It always makes me feel so sad at the end. But it's so lovely.

Jeanshorts And Baggedmilk said...

Allllrrrriiiiggghhhttt. There's a whole lot of females in this place. I may have to stop by more often.

That part where the hairdresser tries to seduce him used to get me so hot when I was young. You could see her brassiere!
And when he runs away, back to the mansion, he makes this like, weird groan or something. That chilled me to my core for some reason.

Elizabeth Marie said...

This movie haunts me...but I love it!

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

I loved this movie...still resonates with me.

Great rundown!

Saskia said...

I watched this as a child and you're right - I didn't understand it's subtlety and even though I liked it I thought it was a bit scary.

But seeing it as an adult I realise just how touching and compelling it is.

Saskia x

Just Playing Pretend said...

I was so extremely scared of this movie as a child.

I watched it when a babysitter was over and then I wouldn't use scissors at school for weeks. NIGHTMARE city.

Gwen said...

That's so funny that you wrote about it and the next weekend it was on television. I love this movie!!! It will always be a "classic" to me. :) XOXO

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