It is good to cross items off lists, not that Edward Scissorhands (1990) was ever on a list of mine. However, like Fight Club (1999), or another film which I will not mention at this time (I have plans for it as our 500th review that will be coming up shortly), there are certain movies that have large followings that I have not seen. Because I am aware of them, it constitutes some vague, unwritten set of items to be checked off when completed. That is where my interest in Edward Scissorhands began. It is natural to want to see what all the fuss is about, if only to satisfy curiosity. Sometimes, that can lead us astray. Others, it can make for a pleasant, unexpected experience. I cannot say that I will be dressing up as the title character next Halloween, but I can now see why so many like it.
I was confused when Edward Scissorhands started because there was a shot of an unmoving Vincent Price, and for a moment I wracked my brain as to how old he could have been at that time. This is the opening credits, anyway. The rest of the film is told as a flashback as an aged woman relates to her granddaughter how they got snow. In the neighborhood they occupy, towering above the neat rows of suburban homes, there stands a forbidding castle atop a desolate hill. It is something straight out of, well, Tim Burton (the director of the film). In the flashback, and Avon lady named Peg (Dianne Wiest) is turned down by all her neighbors, as is seemingly usual. Not wanting to give up yet, she decides to give the house on high a ring. Boldly going in when no one answers her call, she finds Edward (Johnny Depp) cowering in a corner of one of the upper rooms. Of course, she notices immediately the fact that he has scissors where God has blessed most people with hands. Seeing his timidness and loneliness, she decides to take him home, which elicits the curiosity of those below. Everyone wants to know about the strange person Peg has brought down from the mountain. While his sharp extremities do pose problems in terms of eating, changing clothes, and not poking holes in waterbeds (not to mention the inadvertent facial cuts), his gentleness seems to win everyone over. The one the Edward is most concerned about impressing, though, is Kim (Wynona Ryder). She is Peg’s daughter, and the old lady at the beginning. When he arrives, she is away camping with her boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) and some other companions. She returns to find a freakish looking person unexpectedly sleeping in her bed. It is not the most pleasant of first impressions. Still, Kim begins to warm to Edward, particularly when she sees the joy that he brings to all around. Most of what they like about him pertains to the concomitant abilities with his peculiar hands. He trims beautiful topiaries, he has a knack for styling hair (human and pet), and he can even use them for kabobs. The attention he garners comes with jealousy from Jim. All he sees in Edward is a monster who is trying to move in on his girlfriend. He goes so far as to get Edward arrested when, with Kim’s anguished help, Jim puts Edward up to breaking into Jim’s father’s valuables. Though Edward is released, his public incarceration is the turning point for the neighborhood in being against not only Edward, but the family who let him stay in their home. Their disapprobation reaches its zenith when no one shows up for their family’s Christmas party. No one, that is, except for Jim. After a tense exchange with Kim where she defends Edward, he takes off with one of his friends in their van and almost runs over Kim’s little brother Kevin (Robert Oliveri). Edward saves Kevin, but the neighbors witness the event and assume Edward is attacking the kid. Finally, having had enough, he decides to return to his castle and away from the jeers of the people below. Following him is Kim, with Jim close behind. This time, Jim has a gun, and in the resulting altercation, he is stabbed through the chest and pushed out a high window. When the town folk reach the entrance en masse, they see Jim’s body and assume Edward is the murderer. Staying their hand is Kim, who emerges from inside and tells them that Edward and Jim killed each other. Her and Edward then have one last parting before they return to separate lives.
If you are wondering where the snow comes into Edward Scissorhands, it is from Edward carving ice sculptures. He had done so for the family’s Christmas party, and apparently continued to do so every Christmas thereafter. Kim is enchanted by the effect, which is seemingly not normal for whatever part of the country in which they live (though I think it was filmed in Florida, poor Johnny Depp). I do not typically get into such commentary, but the snow is part of an interesting play on colors in the film. The shots of the neighborhood show it to be full of colorfully painted homes, though stark in their uniformity and bare interior walls. It is counterintuitive, but despite having every shade under the sun, the neighborhood is essentially colorless (not to mention the lack of any other race but white, except for the friendly black police officer). In contrast, the monochromatic Edward and his black and white world in the castle is warm and whimsical. I have no doubt that Tim Burton was trying to turn our pre-existing notions on their head with this color scheme.
There is a lesson in this aspect of Edward Scissorhands that I like in that we should appreciate all God’s creatures, no matter how they look. In the film, though, it is suggested that the person responsible for Edward’s creation in Vincent Price. Still, the idea remains, and it is a good one to keep in mind. It is made all the more poignant in how it is evident that, despite ending up alone in the end, Edward craves companionship. For this Catholic, it is seen in how he has a picture of Mary with Child in his sleeping area in the castle. Unfortunately, the one devout Christian in the film is depicted as being the most bigoted character of all. I also had a sense that she is supposed to have some learning impediment, which is even more frustrating. Then again, what else should one expect from Hollywood? Either way, I do not like bullying, and I felt for Edward, and cheered how the family, and especially the daughter, stuck up for him. That is Christian virtue, whether or not Tim Burton wants to admit it.
I watched Edward Scissorhands recently at the suggestion of a dear friend. I am glad I did so, too. If you have not seen it before, watch it. I think you will be thankful for the experience as well. There are some off color jokes in it that are, unfortunately, unavoidable given the times in which it was filmed. Regardless, they are momentary blips in an otherwise warm movie.
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