Thursday, July 16, 2009

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

By Eric Jessen 7/15/09

When a suburban town's local Avon saleswomen visited a big spooky mansion perched atop a hill that overshadows the pastel colored houses, she saw a lonely innocent boy with scissors for hands and said “I think you should just come home with me.” Just let that description stew and bounce around in you head............
This is the first scene of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands and it is indicative of the movie's charm and also its problem. Its charm is in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach sense of wonder. As a result it is relatively enjoyable. But it leaves me unsatisfied because of its faulty structure and concept.
Edward Scissorhands is a clashing mix of fairy tale and social satire. The movie takes Edward, with his gimp clothes and goth hair cut, and puts him in a tired stereotype of a suburban town. The men all leave for work at the exact same time, and the wives stay home, tip toe on their high heels around town and gossip with each other about frivolous things. Edward, of course, doesn't fit in and blah, blah, blah funny wacky moments with his scissor hands. The town is supposed to be, though exaggerated, a mirror of real life (that's what satire is), but Edward is a totally implausible character. He has scissors for hands. That's ridiculous. I kept wondering, how is he supposed to go the bathroom? Burton put him in real life situations, in a town that is supposed to satirize real towns, as if Edward could possibly be real himself.
The point of the movie is too ask, what if a strange person with scissors for hands was put in a suburban town? How would people react? How would he act at a barbecue? How would he eat with scissors for hands? How would the house wives and and their corporate golf playing husbands and their bratty spoiled teenage children try to exploit his scissoring abilities? And what type of girl would fall in love with the outcast scissor hands man (In this case Winona Ryder)? Well, I'm sorry to say this, but all of those questions and the subsequent scenes that attempt to answer them are stupid because no one can ever have scissors for hands. By putting Edward in real life situations, the fact that he is an implausible character is magnified. Every time he struggled to eat even a pea, I was reminded, didn't he live in a giant mansion alone for many years? How did he eat then?
I don't mind a fairy tale and I don't mind a social satire but Edward Scissorhands is an awkward mix of both. The movie might have worked if Edward was put where he belongs, with other implausible characters in an implausible place. It also may have worked if Burton blew me away with creativity, in the places and the characters and the situations so I'm left not caring if it makes sense. (Trust me, that's worked many times before.) Edward is a creative and interesting character stuck in a cliché suburban town living out lame plot lines. Don't get me started on Edward fighting for Winona's love with her obnoxious ex-boyfriend.
You won't mind Edward, even if he looks like Robert Smith of The Cure, but unless you've always wondered what would happen if a man with scissor hands were thrown into the gauntlet that is suburban America, Edward Scissorhands is a let down.

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