“Big Fish”: writing, tone, and allure

Published April 9, 2012 by wyldflamingo

While working on a myriad of other things (because I’m incapable of sitting and just doing one thing at a time), my husband pronounced “I don’t remember much about ‘Big Fish’, and popped it into the DVD player.

‘Big Fish’ is a Tim Burton movie from 2003, and probably one of his most overlooked works. Burton is well known for odd-ball characters we might not normally find appealing (Edward Scissorhands, Jack Skellington, Beetlejuice), and his just-this-side-of-surreal sets and storylines. ‘Big Fish’ is a story about perception, and how the way one person may view the world is not the same way anyone else views it.

Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor both play Ed Bloom–Albert plays the elder Ed Bloom, dying of cancer and estranged from his son, Will. Will is perpetually embarassed by his father and his “fish stories”–what Will perceives as outrageous exagerations of of Edward’s past. As the story progresses, we see Edward’s life from his own eyes, and it’s up to the viewer to decide if one, or the other viewpoint is more accurate.

While Burton’s cinematography is always appealing, with its soft focus on female characters, and oversaturated background colors, its his ability to deliver a story and create compelling characters that lure and appeal. We’ve established, ten minutes into the movie, that Ed Bloom has a penchant for telling tall tales. But exactly how “tall” does the tale have to be, to estrange you from your son? Is it embarassment that pushes Will away?

What makes this movie for me is Ed Bloom’s viewpoint–he turns the mundane into the magnificent. I’m not sure how effective the same story would be, without Burton’s rich visualizations, but watching ‘Big Fish’ always makes me try to imagine…and practice my embellishments.


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