Over the course of his career, Tim Burton has established himself as one of Hollywood's leading directors. His fantastic, often dark and macabre visions are combined with his knack for telling compelling stories that audiences relate to. In his adaptation of Dan Wallace's novel, Big Fish, he puts forth an unusually lighter film that is arguably his most personal.
The film begins with the elder Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) speaking about the day of his son Will's (Billy Crudup) birth. While his wife was busy giving birth, Edward was out catching the largest, uncatchable fish that you can imagine. Will, now grown up, struggles with his father's penchant for telling "Tall Tales" and claims that he has no idea who his father really is. Edward continues to tell the fantastical story of his growing up, and the events that lead to him meeting is wife.
During this time, Burton employs small flashbacks, vignettes that show each of Bloom's stories, with Ewan McGregor portraying the younger Edward. Burton's visual aesthetic gives these stories a Southern Gothic flair that makes them each seem just a bit beyond reality.
Will continue's to struggle with his father's tales, claiming that it is impossible to know who his father really is. This causes a three year rift in their relationship that doesn't end until Will receives the news that his father has had a life-threatening stroke. When Will comes to the ailing Edward's hospital bed, he realizes that his father's life has been defined by the stories he tells. With the realization, he begins to tie up the ends of his father's tales, repairing their broken relationship.
This is probably Tim Burton's deepest emotional movie. Each character is given a strong arch, allowing Burton's visual pyrotechnics to be matched by emotional revelations that are equally spectacular. The tall tales lend themselves to the fairy tale style that the film takes on. Overall, this is an exceptional adaptation of Wallace's novel, and a delightful film.
Have you seen this film or read the book on which it is based? How do you think the two compare? What other film adaptations would you like to see reviewed?