Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #76 Edward Scissorhands
Box Office: $56.4 million
Oscar Nominations: Best Makeup
Oscar Wins: None
Available To Stream: Disney+
A movie that is so strange, Edward Scissorhands is only able to work because of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. What is so disappointing is that those some inclinations towards weirdness eventually sent both guys to their creative demise. Somewhere along the line, Burton seemed to try to out-weird himself with each movie he made. By doing that, he also became less creative and focused on stories that have already been told like Alice In Wonderland, Dumbo or Dark Shadows. Burton is even doing it again right now with Wednesday from The Addams Family on Netflix. Maybe he only had so many new stories to tell.
With Depp, finding out the actor himself may be stranger than any character he played was an odd revelation. He needed to have some level of normalcy himself to be a great actor. I'm not just talking about playing a regular person like Gilbert Grape (#79 on the list). His days of being in a movie where Depp is starring as someone who could actually exist seem over. Him losing touch with any sense of being ordinary even hurts him in unusual roles like Edward Scissorhands who does need a layer of balance to help us relate and care for the character.
Edward Scissorhands is a brilliant creation by Tim Burton and co-writer Caroline Thompson. It's not just having scissors for hands that is so special. It's the entire look of the character along with Johnny Depp's kindness playing Edward that make him such a great character. I love that in the third act that we see Edward get angry (rightfully so) and that he isn't perfect. He's a very good person (or maybe creation is the better word) but everyone has a breaking point.
Of course the strangeness and kindness of Edward is in sharp contrast to the suburbs that Burton is shitting on for the entirety of the movie. Burton said he wasn't trying to be judgmental but to me that's bullshit. A great example is the old man character who lives in the neighborhood and we only see twice. At first, the old man meets Edward at the barbecue and is kind to him. The old man says that he was injured in the war to relate to Edward and that he shouldn't let anyone tell him he is handicapped. At the end of the movie, when the neighborhood turns on him, the old man mocks Edward for being "crippled". Between that reaction, the houses all looking the same and the housewives all reacting as one unit; Burton is telling us that the suburbs (and the people who reside there) mostly don't have independent thought and can only act as a mob.
This fish out of water premise is obviously not very unique but the way Burton shows us this story is what makes it stand apart. The casting is also perfect especially Depp and Dianne Wiest who plays Peg, a motherly figure to Edward. It's a very difficult role to play as we have to believe this woman would bring in a strange, lonely man with scissors for hands into her home with her children. But because of Wiest's warmth, I do buy it. Winona Ryder and Alan Arkin are also very good. I will admit I am constantly distracted whenever I see Anthony Michael Hall all bulked up. In my mind, he's the scrawny guy from the John Hughes movies. He does a nice job here but it does take me out of the movie.
Edward Scissorhands held up a little better then I thought it would. I think that is helped by by the odd setting which is a mix between the Kennedy-era fashions and home designs of the early 1960's and modern things in 1990 like answering machines. Tim Burton has called this his most personal movie and even from Edward's hair, it's not a great leap to see this as a parallel to how Burton must have felt growing up. He does see himself as the hero which anytime the director tells his own story can seem a bit much. The visual elements and Depp's performance help me look past that pretty easily.
76. Edward Scissorhands
77. Cape Fear
83. Total Recall
84. Quiz Show
87. Men In Black
95. Dirty Work
98. Any Given Sunday