When unsuccessful Avon representative Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) decides to take her business to the creepy mansion on the outskirts of her suburb, she stumbles upon a frightening yet timid creature named Edward (Johnny Deep). Despite the fact that he has razor sharp scissors instead of hands and looks like he hasn’t seen the sunlight in forever, Peg takes Edward home and hopes to acclimate him into a gossip-driven suburban society. But while Edward tries to navigate this new, delicate world and understand his growing feelings for Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), everyone else in the town wants to take advantage of this special guest.
While the creepy and twisted visual design of the film (a Tim Burton specialty) gives the film unique artistic value, there was a deeper meaning in the film’s character conflicts. Another Burton trademark in Edward Scissorhands is the man vs. society struggles. Edward just isn’t built to handle things like forks, knives, and water beds. Even when he finds a way to meaningfully contribute to the community through hedge trimming and pet grooming, his innocence allows for others to take advantage of him. Although his physical design is purely fantastical, he represents outsiders in the real world who are misunderstood. In that way, the film takes a fresh look at issues like loneliness and bullying.
With such a strong message about outcasts and misunderstood characters, the focus of the film becomes Edward Scissorhands himself, and much of the movie is aimed at getting the audience to sympathize with him. Although he only says a few words throughout the film, Johnny Deep draws attention to the character with childlike expressions of wonderment and fear. The plot revolves around putting Edward in difficult situations that reveal how out of place Edward is in society. While the story is unique, it certainly borrows from age-old tales about freaks, monsters, or outsiders. But Edward is definitely one-of-a-kind and, it is this character that drives the film.
The film wasn’t made to please everyone. Anyone who considers themselves an outsider will like the film more, especially fans of the gothic artistic style. While I’m not always a fan of Burton’s odd colors and twisted sculptures, I fell in love with the film simply because of the message. While its sets and lighting resemble that of horror films, Edward Scissorhands is definitely not a horror movie itself. It’s a Dr. Sues style fantasy (as many of Burton’s films are) that also functions as a romantic drama.
Other achievements of the film include its score and sound effects. Danny Elfman, who you can almost expect to score a Burton film, put together a score that seems part love story, part fantasy, and part horror. The fast violin pieces used to accompany the snipping sounds of Edward’s hands perfectly complimented certain scenes. The use of color was also noteworthy in the climactic scenes of the film; the pallet switches from creepy pastels to red and white, accenting the use of blood as a symbol of life and love.
I had always thought that this would be a weird little movie, but it is honestly one of the best I have seen in a while. Burton has successfully created a character that represents many facets of an outcast, from depression and social anxiety to inner turmoil and an innocent desire to help others. His side characters are wonderful caricatures of the judgmental, self-centered members of society. It’s not your typical film, but its quirks bring this strangle little story about a strange little man to life.
Fun fact: In 2005, choreographer Matthew Bourne created a ballet based on Edward Scissorhands. Check out a clip from that ballet here.