Above the seemingly perfect suburban setting below there lives an artificial man with scissors for hands. His name is Edward. Left unfinished by his creator who tragically passed away before his masterwork could be completed; Edward had lives alone. That is until the Avon lady came calling. Thrown into the pedicured clutches of the women in the town below, things seem to be going well as he woos them with avant garde haircuts and topiary. Circumstances change however when Edward falls in love with a cheerleader, and the ugly side of suburban America begins to rear its head.
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On paper Edward Scissorhands seems to be an unlikely follow up to Tim Burtons 1989 adaptation of Batman. But Burtons next film would follow up the themes of ‘outsiders’ and ‘freaks’ tackled the caped crusader adventure and place them not in a dystopian cityscape but in the back gardens of suburban America.
Edward (Johnny Depp) is a creation of a brilliant but lonely Inventor (Vincent Price in his last significant role), who dreamed that one of his many creations may have a heart one day. Edward was nearing completion, but unfortunately for all parties concern the Inventor dies, leaving Edward with scissors for hands; a handicap that would prove to make social interaction from then on predictably awkward. Edward is discovered in his fortress of solitude by down on her luck Avon Lady Peg (Dianne West) who was initially just hoping to make a sale but discovers Edward in his fascinating form. She takes pity of Edward and invites him to come to stay. Edward is initially the subject of awe from the towns people when they discover his ‘handicap’ is also what makes him unique and wows the neighbourhood with his artistry in the form of dog grooming, kooky hairstyles, and upmarket hedge trimming. Good things are never intended to last however, Edward falls in love with Pegs daughter. Kim (Winona Ryder) and it isn’t long until Edwards naïve and trusting nature is abused by Kim’s jealous boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) and his is manipulated into committing a crime.
Edward leaves his apparent harsh existence of living alone in his crumbling gothic mansion to the clean cut pastel coloured setting of the neighbourhood below. This seemingly perfect environment soon becomes the breeding ground for conjecture, jealously, lust, and mob mentality that shows the destructive nature that certain pockets of so called civilisation can nurture when confronted with something as unique and beyond their understandings as Edward. The eventual reaction of the towns people towards Edward echoes that seen in other classic ‘monster’ films such as Frankenstein and King Kong where it is impossible for the human condition not to fear what it cannot understand, reacting to this irrationally and violently.
The other characters in the film are served equally well by the rest of the cast. Winona Ryder displays the softness and kindness that the girl next door type of character needs. The importance of not only playing the character as a nice person but someone who could mutually fall for Edward is undeniably important and is executed with conviction. Anthony Michael Hall surprises as the villainous Jim, who was probably best know before this film as geeky Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club. The rest of the cast as an ensemble come together to embody the best and the worst aspects of life in close community living.
Edward Scissorhands mixes the conventions of a fish out of water comedy with tragic love story. Tim Burtons modern day fable succeeds in highlighting the fickleness of people when presented with something that is truly beautiful and unique but beyond societies comprehension and acceptance. Burtons Elephant man is a triumph of storytelling and design that is arguable his best original work.