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The fact that the only thing most people know about this film is that Edward has scissor hands is criminal.
This movie is, in a word, beautiful. Tim Burton tells stories like no other, and when they're simpler tales like this and Nightmare, he absolutely excels at finding the nuance and heart, plus putting a creepy twist on it. Basically, it's a time update of Frankenstein (the book), with the premise being "what if a gentle-hearted soul who happens to be a slasher-type monster was introduced into society?" The story itself is refreshingly honest and realistic, and the truthfulness of what goes on makes it such a good story. It uncovers a lot of complexity about relations with "unusual" people, though by the end it seems more like a parable about mental rather than physical disability. It's not trying to appeal to execs, and it tells a really good story.
Edward is an incomplete man-made man with multiple deadly scissors for hands, taken in by a kind makeup saleslady and brought into suburban life, where he makes friends, falls in love, and faces adversity. He's a fantastic monster design and the hands serve as a great disability, something initially strange and perhaps frightening, but also with potential despite the clear restrictions. This film could have easily abused his hands as a comedic gimmick, but his struggles are more sad than anything, which is the right call. He's not tortured, but it's clear that even though he looks like a threat, he's really just trying to figure things out. I think all of the moments play off just as the film wanted them to.
Also, what a fantastic Burton debut for Johnny Depp. There's a lot to be said about him as a person now, but his Edward remains a fantastic performance. Awkward and shy, yet artistic and soulful, purely innocent, but mostly silent, you get so so much out of the character, and he's honestly adorable as well. Just his face and body language alone are enough to carry the story, and just the little touches like the way he walks and "runs" really make him feel developed. He's a bit lost in the suburban society he finds himself in, but he does have some keen understanding beyond people's expectations.
What sets the film apart from Frankenstein is the reaction to the scary artificial man. In this story, there are people who see past the exterior and love and accept Edward throughout the story, and most of the people who threaten him give him a chance before. It's melancholy but somewhat hopeful, as there are good souls out there, but perhaps not enough.
The scissor hands themselves deserve their credit in the opening titles. Really cool practical props, and surprisingly functional considering the fact that they are genuinely used for several shots.
If you want to see a beautiful, artistic, "feels"-heavy film with a creepy edge, look no further. This is an instant favorite for me.
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