Retro Review: Big Fish

Director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” is a movie about family, stories and the world we live in. “Big Fish” stars Billy Crudup as Will Bloom, a son who is frustrated with his ailing father, Edward Bloom (Albert Finney). Will has grown up hearing the wild and fantastical stories of his father’s life. He has become obsessed to hearing the truth about his father’s life instead of the “tall tales” his father loves to create.

As Edward recollects his best stories, we are exposed to the world of young Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) seen through the older self’s mind. Edward’s journey is in fact a magical one. His world is filled with giants, circus performers, witches, Siamese Twins and of course a really big fish.

What kinds of truths are hidden within the stories? How did the relationship between Will’s father and mother (Jessica Lange) help fuel his father’s imagination? Are there any dark family secrets? What is fact and what is fiction?

Burton’s effortless blending of story and real-life make for an interesting and very moving ride. Sure you have the bleakness of real-life every time the film comes back to reality but each time you want to believe even more. You really enjoy following the magical exploits of young Edward.

In some ways you might even want to believe his version more than that of reality. It would have been interesting if Burton tried to or left a hint that maybe the fantasy world could have been reality. This twist could have taken this film to even a deeper level.

I really enjoyed the struggle between father and son as each had become frustrated with the other. Crudup and Finney’s performances make this relationship seem so natural. Finney is incredible as the man clinging to what is dearest to his heart. It is almost heartbreaking watching the withering man trying to convey his heart to his steadfast son.

I also liked the performance of McGregor who brings innocence and a resonating ray of hope to young Edward. His role seems very tongue-in-cheek at times but McGregor holds it together as we really believe in Edward.

One of the most magical scenes in the whole piece was a quiet moment between Finney and Lange. You can see their devotion and love swelling inside. It was even more tender and moving when Lange snuggles up against Finney while they are both lying in a bathtub. It’s a radiant scene that speaks volumes to what the project is saying. Life is all about the love we share with each other.

I did have some problems with how Burton decides to end his classic tale of family. I was puzzled to why the film ended that way. The film often recollects that sure we can tell the real stories but aren’t the tales more fun. Did we really need all the answers we are shown? I guess for once I wanted a little more ambiguity or more depth in the tales.

Burton is a magical storyteller and that is exactly what his film celebrates. I guess I just wanted to believe more in the fantasy world than that of reality.

(4.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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