Big Fish (PG-13)
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This came out in 2003. It's something I suppose I must have been looking forward to, partly because it was directed by Tim Burton, and partly because it has a great cast. And I first saw it probably sometime in the Aughts, like within a few years of its release. (I wish I could remember more specifically.) But when I saw it... I believe I thought it was just sort of okay. I think I was somewhat disappointed in it, and didn't really feel the need to ever see it again. And I don't think I ever wrote a review of it. (If I did, I must have later deleted it. But probably I never wrote one.) And yet, over the years, I came to feel that I would like to see it again, if only so I could finally write a review. And I had a slight hope that I might like it more this time around. Well, I finally did see it again in 2017, and this time I kind of loved it. It put me in mind of things I'd seen years later than this, which I certainly liked. Some of the surreal stuff reminded me a little bit of Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. And the entire premise reminded more than a little of What Lives Inside. But I don't think my greater appreciation of this movie had anything to do with its reminding me of other things. Somehow, I just appreciated it more, on its own merits, and I can't really recall how or why I could have possibly been underwhelmed by it, before. Also, before rewatching it, I assumed I would put my review in the "weird movies" section, but after watching it, I decided to go with "quirky movies." Which... you know, nothing against weird movies, but "quirky" is one of my favorite genres (however hard to define it may be). So this is a compliment.
A man named Edward Bloom (played in the present by Albert Finney, and as a young man by Ewan McGregor) has always told tall tales about experiences he's had (or claims to have had) throughout his lifetime. Everyone likes him because of how great a storyteller he is. And he's told his son, Will, these stories countless times, throughout Will's life. When Will was young, he loved his father's stories, and believed them. But when he got older, he realized the stories couldn't possibly be true, and came to resent the fact that, as far as he could tell, his father had never told him a single true thing about himself. He also resents the fact that his father spent so much time away from home, since he was a traveling salesman. So he came to feel like his father was a stranger to him. Things come to a head when Will (played as an adult by Billy Crudup) marries a French woman named Joséphine (Marion Cotillard), and Edward tells the same "big fish" story story he's always told about the day Will was born, which of course Will knows to be untrue. And he feels that his own birth is just a footnote in the story, and that his father is making Will's wedding day about himself, rather than about Will. After that, Will doesn't talk to him for three years.
Then one day Will gets a call from his mother, Sandra (Jessica Lange), saying that his father may not have much longer to live. So Will and Joséphine go back to Will's hometown, and Will tries to fix his relationship with his father. Mainly this means he wants to get Edward to finally tell him the truth about the events of his life, but Edward insists he always has. Meanwhile, we hear (and see) many of his stories, which are indeed too fantastical to be believed. One story from when Edward was a young boy involve him and a few friends going to the house of an old woman believed to be a witch (Helena Bonham Carter), who has a glass eye that is purported to show anyone who looks into it how they will die. Another story takes place when Edward was 18, and volunteers to talk to a giant that had recently arrived in town, and convince him to leave, since the other townsfolk feared him. Edward befriends the giant, whose name is Karl, and decides to join him in his travels. They soon get separated, and Edward finds himself in an idyllic town called Spectre. (I certainly got the sense that the town was meant to be some sort of Heaven, which Edward had arrived at early.) He meets a few people there, including a poet named Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi), and an 8-year-old girl named Jenny Hill. Jenny seemed to have a crush on Edward, as did probably most of the women in town. Certainly a woman named Mildred (Missi Pyle) did. But eventually Edward decides to leave, and promises Jenny he'll come back someday. And then he rejoins Karl. The two of them continue traveling until they come to a circus, and the ringmaster, Mr. Calloway (Danny DeVito), offers Karl a job. While watching the show, Edward sees a young woman (played by Alison Lohman), and falls in love at first sight. But before he can speak to her, she's gone. He finds out that Calloway knows who she is, so he agrees to work for him, in exchange for Calloway revealing one fact about her every month. After a few years, Calloway finally tells Edward that her name is Sandra Templeton, and where to find her. So, he goes to court her.
Well, there are other stories, but I don't want to tell them all. And I've left out most of the details about the ones I have mentioned. Of course, all the flashbacks are interspersed with scenes in the present. And at one point, Will meets Jenny Hill, who is played as an adult by Helena Bonham Carter. (She looks nothing like the witch from when when Edward was a boy, but the fact that she played both roles ties in nicely to the overall vibe of the movie.) And she tells Will a story about Edward, which is much more realistic than Edward's own stories about his life, but still demonstrates what a good man Edward is. And... eventually Edward does die, but not before Will finally comes to accept him for who he is, and reconciles with him. There's a happy ending (or two happy endings, appropriately enough; a real one and a fantastical one). And I really enjoyed both the realistic and fantastic sides of the whole movie. And I don't know what else to tell you.