Quick Hit - This dark story unfolds like a suburban retelling of Frankenstein’s monster.
I think that there have been a lot of knocks surrounding suburban lifestyle through the years. And you know what? There really should be. Having everything within an arm’s reach, rarely having conflict, breeds exactly the types of things that this movie goes on to show us. Movies like Suburbicon, Downsizing, and Big Fish took those and made them into their own stories. Here, Tim Burton took Frankenstein’s monster and set it within that same framework. If someone discovered a man that was… different, how would they treat him?
Reportedly, Burton came up with the idea based on a sketch he did in high school. Let that sink in for a minute, and think back to all the manic doodles you may have done in high school. Would you have ever thought that one of those would be made into a film?? I digress. Regardless of the inspiration for the film, the writing treatment by Burton and Caroline Thompson is a deconstruction of those suburban neighborhoods. They take the archetypes, like the Avon lady, the cheerleader, the cougar housewife and place them within the context of this story. In doing so, many of these things become comedic elements. I cannot tell you how many times I inadvertently life in this story, whether it’s the amount of times that Bill (Alan Arkin) isn’t listening, or the way that the street corner is seen as an appropriate meeting place for all these housewives.
The suburban setting also plays well off of the mansion scenes, because it gives a really good juxtaposition between the settings. The dark, gothic nature of it provides a natural home for Vincent Price, who was sadly in his last role. But he clearly holds onto the role dearly, and is, in this critic’s opinion, one of the linchpins in the story. Without having an inventor that clearly values him, Edward probably would not have subsisted so long. Along with that, it allows us to have a background to the story without closure, and without a multitude of questions that have no answers regarding Edward’s survival.
The acting throughout really is top notch, even from people that aren’t my favorite throughout the story, like Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). Having played the geek on the other side of the story so many times really allowed Michael Hall to get vicious with the character. A lot of people don’t like the ending with him, but I don’t mind it, because sometimes, character’s deserve comeuppance. We can’t all be Lieutenant Dans after all. But the true acting crown should go to Depp, who takes a character that does not have a ton of dialogue and puts him in the forefront of the film. People that have only watched the movie once can likely do an impression of the character, similar to what he did with Captain Jack all those years later with the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny Depp can create a character that is unforgettable, and he does that again here.
Is it a Christmas movie? Eh, maybe. Enough so I didn’t mind watching it this time of year. The only negative I really give this film is that I don’t actually like the setting of the old lady (Kim) telling the story to her granddaughter. It somehow robs the film of something intrinsic in my mind, even if that doesn’t fully make sense. So, I’m going to give this one an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"