Movie Name: Big Fish
Studio: Jinks/Cohen Company
Release Date(s): December 10, 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) has always been a big fish in a small pond…just ask him. He has stories of his past that wow and amaze friends and acquaintances, but not his son Will (Billy Crudup). When Will and his wife Josephine (Marion Cotillard) are called back to the United States by his mother Sandra (Jessica Lange) as Edward’s cancer gets too great, Will questions his father for the truth. Unfortunately for Will, his father sticks to his stories of his youth as a young Edward (Ewan McGregor) set out to find his life, battle giants and witches, save a town, and marry the woman he loved (Alison Lohman). With no means but his own investigation, Will seeks out the truth about his father…but truth is a gray area that isn’t always obvious.
Directed by Tim Burton, Big Fish is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel. The film was originally attached to Steven Spielberg, but Tim Burton took over the directing. The film was released to positive reviews and received an Academy Award for Best Original Score (losing to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
Tim Burton has gone downhill over the years. Starting out as an original and unique force in pictures in the ’80s, he has put out picture after picture of ho-hum material. Despite a lot of negative press, I have to say that Big Fish is an underrated Tim Burton picture.
The movie’s story is the strong point. Both the father-son relationship and the husband-wife relationship in the movie provide a nice story that shows that truth and fiction isn’t always clean-cut. Even in fiction, stories aren’t necessarily lies nor are they bad…is making your life more interesting wrong?
The cast is also strong. Alison Lohman really does look like a young Jessica Lange though I don’t feel Ewan McGregor doesn’t look like a young Albert Finney as producers thought. Both sets of actors give strong performances. Billy Crudup is ok though his role as the cold-shoulder son is tough, and the movie features the first American film of Marion Cotillard. Burton’s muse and wife (at the time) Helena Bonham Carter plays the witch and Jenny Hill. The movie features appearances by Robert Guillaume, Missi Pyle, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, David Denman, Deep Roy, Ada and Arlene Tai, and Matthew McGrory as people in Edward’s life. The film features a cameo by Miley Cyrus as a young friend of Edward, and yes, the banjo player is Billy Redden who played the banjo kid in Deliverance.
The movie is a perfect fit for Burton. Edward is a storyteller and his stories lend themselves to Burton’s visuals. This is good because it becomes a contrast to the reality that his son seeks out. It is allowed to be big and unrealistic in Edward’s mind but it has to be close to reality for Will.
Big Fish is a movie that is extremely tough to watch at the end. Will’s “story” to his father and the ending of his story is all you hope for in death. I think people might have missed this movie a bit because of Tim Burton and Tim Burton’s style, but the solid story, cast, and visuals win you over in the end for a truly touching story.