Film review: Edward Scissorhands (1990), directed by Tim Burton
Peg (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon representative, is having a bad day. None of the more or less desperate housewives (Kathy Baker, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aron, et al.) in her neighbourhood are buying her products, and in a fit of desperation she drives up the mountain towering over the technicolour houses, to the old decrepit mansion. There she finds a young man, Edward (Johnny Depp), with scissors for hands. Peg takes pity on him and takes him back home, much to her son’s (Robert Olivieri) and husband’s (Alan Arkin) bemusement.
Edward was created by an inventor (Vincent Price) who died before he had the chance to finish him, which is why Edward has scissors for hands. Life in suburbia isn’t easy for someone who has lived his whole life on top of a mountain, and the housewives are very curious about the newcomer – except for the local religious nut (O-Lan Jones), who thinks he’s the spawn of Satan.
However, Edward soon gets very popular as his topiary skills are second to none. When teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) comes back home from a camping trip with boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) and their friends, and discovers a scissor-handed young man in her bed, things get a little bit complicated.
If I have any criticism about this film, is that it feels very, very staged. The semi-ruined old mansion doesn’t look like an actual ruin, it looks “chic”, like it’s been styled that way. Of course it has been styled, but there’s styling something to look e.g. old and deserted, and then there’s something looking like it’s been styled to look old and deserted.
The contrast between the dark, black and white tones of the mansion and the multitude of colours in the neighbourhood below is stark. The neighbourhood is almost nauseatingly colourful. Into this alien environment, the equally alien Edward has to try and adapt to fit in. He doesn’t want to be special, he wants to be like everyone else – but his sharp, metallic hands makes that impossible.
The love triangle between Edward, Kim and Jim is touching, and I think no one in their right mind can really root for super-jerk Jim. It’s also hard to root for the nosy, interfering housewives, especially the over-sexed Joyce, whose advances would make most men head for the hills.
Edward Scissorhands is a great film. It might look fairy-tale like with all the bright colours everywhere, but it’s a very serious story all the same. It’s a powerful tale of love and loss, of being the square peg trying to fit in a round hole, of loneliness and acceptance, and so on. Now, it’s a classic film, and so it should be. It deserves to be, and the performance of Johnny Depp in particular is praiseworthy.
4.5 out of 5 hands.