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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2003!
BIG FISH, 2003
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Marion Cotillard, Robert Guillaume, Steve Buscemi
Will Bloom’s father always told him stories by his bedside. Each one would be filled with marvel and fantasy; adventure and excitement; but as Will grew out of his love of being told such stories, so did his connection with his father. As Will’s father continued to tell the stories about his adventures to those around him, Edward was determined to once and for all find out the truth—if there was any—behind the tales he had grown up with. Coming back to his hometown, Edward attempts to reconcile with his father and confront the reality of his life before it is too late.
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The true wonder of a film like this can only be embodied in the spirit and passion Tim Burton puts into his movies. While he may not be the most famous director, all of his films emit that same feeling of surrealism in reality. It had erupted him into success, and skewing from such a process would mean Burton would insult his ability to make truly compelling films. Big Fish is the perfect embodiment of surrealism in reality, and as the film goes on, it becomes much more symbolic than it cares to be. Rich in meaning and light in its delivery, the film regarded as the hand reaching out the child in all adults, and rightfully so.
The film begins with a story; one being told by a father to his son at his bedside. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney equally take in the role of Edward Bloom with convincing fashion; in both timelines, they indeed seem like the same person. It is here that the film begins to delve into the deep, surreal nature of the plot, which can be confusing at some points, but only because it is meant to be. Much of the beginning is set in a real world, when Edward’s son, played by Billy Crudup, on his wedding day.
While this film is clearly themed with the reconciliation of father and son, secondary themes arise almost immediately from the film’s beginning. One of which is the art of storytelling, which is clearly established by the end of the first act as an integral part of the plot, and commentary relevant to everyone who tells stories, or listens to them. Will’s father is a master of storytelling—each of his stories captivates its listeners and fact and fiction become melded into an unforgettable tale, mainly because Will’s father tells it so many times.
Will himself is a journalist, or a teller of stories, albeit on paper. Both have their talents in storytelling, but still they remain incredibly distant, which sets up the story for its main theme to develop into eventual conflict and resolution.behind, and am I left with only pieces of my life? Would she ever know what she meant to me, and would all her tears wash away the harsh words left between us?
But the true nature of storytelling must first be addressed; Will must first come to terms with, or succeed in discovering the truths about his father’s life, before he can make amends with him at last. Edward it seemed, did not want to share the reality of his life, simply because everyone, including himself, prefers the ‘fabrications’ his stories provide about Edward’s past encounters and travels. It also seems that the plot prefers them, and possibly the audience prefers them, as they are performance with utmost enthusiasm on the part of the characters, and the atmosphere in all of Edward’s ‘flashbacks.’
As Will and his father’s falling out bring the film to the point of conflict, Edward’s stories have already begun to seam their way into the present time of Will’s life. Edwards flashbacks place themselves in between the present-day life of Will, and his confrontation with his father after learning of a debilitating illness keeping him bedridden in their old home. Strategically placed they may be, but their content leaves you with questions in your head and subtle awe in your eyes.
Edward’s stories of being confined to bed for three years due to his apparent growth spurt into an ambitious adult, his stint at war, and the meeting of his wife all are realized in sequences visually designed to be dream-like, but told it such a way that it melds with the time of Will’s adulthood. Really, Will and Edward are living their lives throughout the movie beside each other, rather than true flashbacks to one character. Much like Will, I felt a bit confused at the sequences of Edward’s adventures. Befriending giants out of town, confronting witches and experiencing a thunderstorm so severe it submerges your car are slightly unbelievable. But as it turns out, that’s exactly what Burton and the film tries to convince the audience of—disbelief. Will himself demands truth about Edward’s life, and with these surreal flashbacks, the audience does too.
What results is a pretty moving conclusion, and things coming full-circle is a really rewarding experience when watching movies. All the confusion between Edward’s real life and that of his stories seems to seam together in the final parts of the film, and Will too understands the art, and the power, of storytelling itself. Big Fish is a film rich in its symbolism, emotion and effect. It’s not simply a father-son bonding film. To say that would be to miss the point of the movie. It melds a lot together, and Burton’s risk of creating a messy mush of clichés and plot holes seems to turn into a very familiar tale with refreshing and honest themes. To put it simply, it is a very well made film.