Friday, May 07, 2004

go fish

Last night I was finally able to watch Big Fish. Tim Burton and screenwriter John August weave an interesting tale based on Daniel Wallace's novel, of a man who spun many a yarn and his son who, having stopped believing in his father's many tall tales, eventually comes to terms with his father's storyteller persona. (It's interesting to note how we are guilty of this in real life sometimes, especially with our parents. Oftentimes we hear from them, if not stories, certain mantras that we've heard over and over again. And we know that there is a grain of truth in there, but we always seem to believe it more when it comes from someone else.)

We are introduced to Edward Bloom as a master storyteller, whose exploits, if we were to believe him, include encountering the smartest catfish in Alabama, logically convincing a giant to stop terrorizing their small town, and parachuting into the middle of a communist gathering in Korea. His son, Will--a journalist who deals with hard, straight facts--has heard all the stories and knows all the punchlines. Summoned to his father's deathbed, he still strives to find the truth, and what he finds surprises but also seems to assure him.

Ewan McGregor is in his element as the young Edward Bloom, not quite as full of himself but knowing he is destined for bigger things. He has both driving ambition and naivete--and he knows everything will be alright for him, something I quite envy his character, in fact. The older Edward is played to endearing but long-winded extreme by Albert Finney. They own the movie; and the other characters rally around them. Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman look so much alike as the senior and young Sandra Templeton-Bloom; and they give honest uncontrived performances. Will is played by Billy Crudup, whose performance here is honest and earnest, although I think I will always see him as the rocker guy from Almost Famous. I enjoyed the cameos from Steve Buscemi and Danny de Vito; and I was reminded how striking and wonderful Helena Bonham Carter could be (as long as I forget her stint in 'Merlin').

Certain scenes jump out at you for their sheer beauty. When Young Edward sees Young Sandra for the first time and knows that she is "The One", time stops for him; and it probably does figuratively but he tells it as if it were literal and you watch as he moves popcorn frozen in the air away as he passes. He plants a field of daffodils outside her window, standing in the middle of it to profess his love. (Ah, who wouldn't want to look out their window to Ewan McGregor in a field of anything!) And then there is that touching (and not lascivious!) scene where Jessica Lange, portraying the senior Sandra Bloom, joins Edward in the bathtub in a tender, poignant gesture of love amidst all. Tim Burton is a visual artist, stashing away his dark and dreary--but still visually engrossing--repertoire (Batman, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands) and working on that potential spark of color that we saw in Sleepy Hollow (although most of that was dark and dreary too).

In the end, we still do not know which part of Edward Bloom's stories were fiction and which were fact. The surprise ending is, even Doubting Will ends up rethinking his hard stance on his father's fabrications. Edward Bloom, the master storyteller, was after all telling stories from his perspective--how he saw the town of Spectre when he was young, as a wonderful happy place, and then coming back to a desolate wasteland years after; how time stopped when he saw Sandra for the first time; or how he saw the twins Ping and Jing. The stories he tells could be euphemisms, wistful ways that he had chosen to remember otherwise dreary and forgettable things; and they could be allegories, as that sting in Spectre could be metaphorical for a false sense of complacency. Will realizes, as do we, that it is through these stories that he does get to know his father--romantic, noble, enthusiastic, flawed yet strong.

Memories are, after all, brought to life by those that remember them; and in the event that a little spice has been added to those memories, maybe even to cook up a legend, then it can't be all that bad.

Weird comment: Billy Crudup plays Will Bloom--Will Turner + Orlando Bloom? I just had to put that in.

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the ninth
Just got the ninth Keanu email. Sigh.