A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Big Fish

June 18, 2011

Big Fish

I told Amanda that we should watch this sentimental tall tale for Father’s Day, and we had planned to do that for a while. A couple days ago, however, we made different plans for Sunday that involved a different movie, so we moved this up a day to watch it on Father’s Day Eve.

This movie is probably the most transparent emotional manipulation I have ever witnessed. I chose it for Father’s Day because it is a story about a son learning about his father as his father is on his death bed. Will Bloom hasn’t spoken to his father in years because he’s a practical man who has become fed up with the ridiculous tall tales his father Ed always tells. When his father’s cancer worsens and it becomes apparent that there’s not much time left for him Will returns home to make one last attempt to find out the truth about his father behind all the fibs, fables and fairy tales.

That’s one way to look at the movie. The tired, mundane, rational way. Most of the movie, however is Ed Bloom’s life as told in his own words. It’s a tale with witches, giants, siamese twins, a werewolf, a hidden perfect town, and of course a big fish. It’s the flights of fancy that really bring the film to life as all the tall tales that Ed tells are brought to life in a magical, soft focus, wondrous way. Ed is not a man overly concerned with things like facts and reality. His life is bigger than that. Will, on the other hand, cannot stand the stories he was raised on, and despairs of ever actually knowing a single true thing about his father’s life. It’s in the reconciliation of these two world views that the movie finds its real magic.

The thing that delights me most in this movie are the fantasy aspects. The stories that Ed tells all have such a familiar feel to them. They have aspects of tall tales, or urban legend, of Greek mythology. Sure they’re impossible, but they have an internal logic that sort of works. I may have to pick up Daniel Wallace’s book, on which the movie is based. Certainly the adaptation for the screen by John August is wonderfully done. We get to see a lot of the stories produced in bizarro Burton style, but even better for me are the hints of other stories that suggest just how many other tales there are that we don’t get to see. Ed starts to talk about seeing an iceberg, for example, which was carried down to Texas to be used for drinking water. He is stopped when he tries to describe the time the family car was carried away by flies.

Also delightful are all the familiar faces throughout the movie. I chuckled to see Missi Pyle and Deep Roy so soon after seeing them in the Tim Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. Steve Buscemi and Danny Devito play supporting roles. Burton of course has Helena Bonham Carter in his movie (playing a couple different roles here.) I always enjoy seeing Robert Guillaume (have I mentioned I once saw him on stage as the Phantom of the Opera?) Then there are the great performances of Billy Crudup as Will, Ewan McGregor as young Ed Bloom in all his stories and an absolutely mesmerizing performance by Albert Finney as the elderly and ailing Ed Bloom who tells us all his wonderful stories.

Tonight was only the second time I watched this film, and I think I actually liked it even more on the second go ‘round. Yes, it’s corny and manipulative. Yes I sob at the end. But it’s also charming and fun, and even has something to say about the importance of fantasy and the nature of truth. Besides which, it’s just a pretty movie to watch. Sometimes that’s enough for me.

June 18, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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