Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup
Category: IIA (Not Suitable for Children)
Duration: 125 minutes
For just a few opening minutes, it looked as though this
could not be a Tim Burton film. What was he doing? Some father-son
storytelling like A River Runs Through It? A straightforward
piece of Americana? The doubts are quickly dispersed and we
are back in Burton territory. Yet, it is unlike anything he
has done before even if there are visual references to other
films, like the box-house suburbia of Edward Scissorhands.
This is a film for those who delight in storytelling.
Once we have got our bearings, we find we are listening to
a tall story about a larger than life fish, that Albert Finney
is relating it at his son's, Billy Crudup's wedding. And,
instead of it being an endearing situation, it is the occasion
for alienation. It's the kind of film that defies a neat synopsis
as it moves from present to past, from reality to fantasy,
from story to story.
Albert Finney is masterful as he invents his life, especially
as he comes to the end of it. Billy Crudup is earnest as his
less than imaginative son who has heard the stories a thousand
times but wants to understand his father before he dies. Much
of the film is about his father as a young man who finds he
has great talents, leaves town with a giant and finds himself
saving a community, finding and wooing his wife and embarking
on a whole lifetime of adventures from down the street to
Vietnam. The young man is played with charm and supreme self-confidence
by Ewan McGregor. Jessica Lange has a smaller role as the
mother and Helena Bonham Carter gives one of her calmest performances
as a mysterious woman who may be a witch.
That is description and a taste of the plot and performances.
It is too difficult in words to communicate Burton's ability
to create a different and wonderful world full of truly magic
moments, a mixture of the mundane and the marvellous, the
tragic and the comic, building up to an ending that diehard
realists may be annoyed by but illustrates the wonder of storytelling.