Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Directed by Tim Burton

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Edward Scissorhands, like many of Tim Burton’s films, is undeniably unique.  It’s a fairytale world, a hybrid of Dr. Seuss and David Lynch, with a little bit of German Expressionism mixed in.

Edward (Johnny Depp) lives in hiding up on a gothic hill above a bright, colorful, unsettling suburbia down below.  In addition to his scissor-hands he wears black leather, like snakeskin coiling around him, and his hair is frayed this way and that, as if he’s perpetually receiving an electric shock.  He’s an intimidating creation from afar, but up close he’ll melt your heart.  Between his curious expression, soft voice and series of self-inflicted scars (by accident), he understandably attracts the sympathy of one of his neighbors, Peg (Dianne Wiest).

She’s a door to door makeup saleswoman who is befuddled by the consistency with which her products don’t work properly, and she takes in Edward like you would a puppy on the side of the road.  He will have trouble fitting into the unmistakably different environment around him, but between his overall kindness and skill as a hair stylist, he becomes everyone’s new favorite pet.  They shower him with affection, but their gaze towards him is still precarious enough to flip on a moment’s notice, just as it is with a celebrity.

The main antagonist, once most of the plot settles in, is Jim (Anthony Michael Hall), the brute boyfriend of Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder).  Off on a camping trip when Peg introduces Edward to their little neighborhood, she will be a step behind, questioning everyone’s loyalties to a man who looks so strange.  To make matters worse, Edward is hopelessly in love with her and will do anything to win her affections.

This gets him in trouble when Jim, who notices Edward’s infatuation with Kim, gets him to break into his own father’s house, whom he wants to rob.  When things go wrong Jim, Kim and company will bail, and Edward won’t say anything to incriminate them.  Instead he just hangs his head while the neighbors, all sporting his haircuts, eagerly turn on him, happy to gossip about anything and everything.

Things only get worse as Edward will try to do good but to no avail.  When Jim startles him while he’s making an ice sculpture, he incidentally slices Kim’s palm.  When Jim nearly runs over Kim’s younger brother (Robert Oliveri) as he’s crossing the road, Edward will push him out of harm’s way but scratch the boy with his hands.

This series of missteps and misunderstandings is both effective and frustrating, if only because you care so much about Edward.  He’s so painfully shy, introverted and withdrawn.  All he wants is to fit in, but *sniff* no one can look beyond what they see as his deformities.  Even when they celebrate him you get the sense that it’s only the lead up to when they turn on him.

Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking, imaginative and oftentimes very, very funny.  Having not seen this, or many other Tim Burton movies, since I was a kid, I was surprised by how many laugh out loud moments there are.  Burton creates unique visions of the world, and you can rest assured that he will explore most of the possibilities of these tiny universes.

Up Next: Don’t Look Now (1973), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), This Property is Condemned (1966)

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