Tales to Tell
I love Tim Burton’s films, even when they’re not great. I love his unflinching weirdness. I love that he’ll take a chance and go the extra mile of excessiveness even if he fails half the time to take us along, because when he succeeds, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. I love all the baroque curlicues — visual and intellectual and humorous — of his vision. I love that even for all the diversity among his films, there’s no mistaking them for the work of anyone else, and that’s a rare thing among film directors. So even when his films aren’t great, they’re always interesting… sometimes not in a good way, it’s true. But I can respect an artist who pushes boundaries of one sort or another and fails far more than one who always takes the safe road.
I say I love Burton’s films even when they’re not great — for every out-
Edward Bloom is a teller of preposterous and charming tall tales that delight everyone he knows… except his grown son, William (Billy Crudup: Charlotte Gray, World Traveler), who escaped their small Alabama town and his father’s shadow — Edward is indeed a big fish in his little pond of a town — for distant Paris. But when Edward (Albert Finney: Traffic, Erin Brockovich) falls ill and William returns home, the younger man finally makes a determined attempt to get to know the father who’s always distanced himself with his outrageous stories. At least, William has felt that the stories were a way for father to keep son from ever really getting inside his shell. The truth is… well, both more and less than William can imagine.
Twisting perspective and playing with concepts of cause and effect, Burton — John August (Charlie’s Angels, Go) crafted the screenplay from Daniel Wallace’s novel — is at his most sophisticated here, limning what you could call “the adventure of a lifetime.” Not the short period of grand adventure that comes along once in a lifetime, but the grand adventure that is a life, the feat of simply living — really living — in the world. And as big as it is, in some ways — spanning the world from Southeast Asia to the American South — Big Fish really is Burton’s “little” film, and a lovely one at that, touchingly soulful and more warmly engaging in its weirdness than his other films have been. And, in the end, when you realize that it’s about the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives, you walk out of Big Fish treading on air and seeing all the enchanting oddness in the everyday everythings all around you.