Released: 9th January 2004 (USA)
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Daniel Wallace (Novel), John August (screenplay)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup
Storyline: “A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.” IMDB
I first watched this film on a flight to Japan soon after it came out, I had heard mention of it in the usual write-ups but had never seen a trailer and did not really know what it was about. It was something I chose to watch largely because of the ascendancy of Ewan McGregor’s star. The strongest memory I have is of sobbing hard with tears rolling down my cheeks by the end of the movie, I wonder whether the emotion will get to me again, or was it the medicinal wine I had been drinking on the long flight in order to get to sleep…….
I have never seen Big Fish before. I actually don’t know anything about it. However, one of my favorite movies of all time is Moulin Rouge, so when I saw that Ewan McGregor was the star I was definitely intrigued. After the dread leading up to watching King Kong I was eager to watch a more modern movie. I’d asked Brit Boy about this movie a few times trying to get his take on it, knowing he’d watched it before, but he kept his lips sealed, so for the most part I went into this movie blindly.
Set the Scene
I had just come back from a trip visiting Brit Boy and we decided to once again watch the movie at the same time so that we could discuss it together right after. With a simple text of “ready?” we both pushed play and virtually snuggled up watching the movie for the next few hours.
I settle down to watch this probably for the last time alone, with American Girl’s long awaited move to my side of the country well underway.
After years of listening to his father’s “fish tales” Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) becomes estranged from his father Ed Bloom (Albert Finney). When Ed becomes ill, Will rushes to his father’s side in order to try and finally get to know his “real” father before it is too late. At this point we are introduced to a young Ed Bloom (McGregor) and the BIG fish tale begins…
The style of this movie reminded me a lot of the movie “What Dreams May Come” starring Robin Williams. It is done in a very fantastical way. The colors are vivid and bright, the music is flowing and surreal, and while the story has elements of reality, overall you are left constantly questioning what is real and what is not. This plays brilliantly into the plot of the movie as we take a trip with Ed Bloom down the road of his younger life. You feel the frustrations and amazement that his son must have felt as you try to decipher fact from fiction. However, at some point as a viewer I think you finally decide to just give up on trying to figure it out and you allow yourself to sit back and be entertained with the story.
I am not familiar with that movie American Girl, maybe we should add it to the list of extra movies to watch and blog about? Having said that I do agree that the film has a very crisp surreal quality to it, and in a lot of ways reminded me of the land of Oz when The Wizard of Oz transitions to full color. I was once again sucked into this film almost immediately especially when the fish tales begin, it always astonishes me how many big name actors and actresses play supporting roles in this film, (Danny De Vito, Helena Bonham Carter and Steve Buscemi to name a few). A little bit of trivia about this film is it was actually Miley Cyrus’s first film break at 8 years old.
One of my favorite parts of this movie is when a young Ed proposes to his love interest Sandra (played by Alison Lohman). Sandra’s favorite flower is a daffodil and he delivers a FIELD full of daffodils to her college.
My favorite flower is also the daffodil, and I thought the scene was beautiful even though completely unbelievable. This however becomes a theme throughout the entire movie. It’s not about what actually happened, its about the story, how much it meant. Ed’s love was real for Sandra, and while he may not have actually filled a field full of daffodils, his love was big enough that in his mind he did actually perform this grand gesture. Later on in the movie, when Will finally discovers the real story of how he was born by a doctor at the hospital that knows Will’s father closely, he looks at Will and simply says:
“Not very excitin’, is it? And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one…., I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me.”
For me there are many vignettes in this movie which make you stop and reflect on life, one of which American Girl touches upon above but it is a strong theme throughout the film and that is the love Ed has for Sandra. Regardless of where his adventures take him he is always working towards being with her or to enhance her life. I loved this quote where he met her first time:
“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.”
These scenes are too numerous to mention and certainly couldn’t do the film justice without providing major spoilers in this review. Suffice it to say though it was these scenes which touched me in a way I can’t really put my finger on. I think it speaks to me about love in its purest form and finding your one true love (I know I’m just an old romantic…).
I know that for Brit Boy he finds this movie very sad. I however, found it hopeful. I loved the idea that you could look back at your life and indulge in just the right places, to fill in the gaps of the bad, and make the good that much better. While it may not all be true, if it becomes your memory does it matter? This doesn’t mean I will start elaborating on my own life stories any day soon, however, I can definitely appreciate the appeal. Will Bloom starts this movie with a simple quote, and ironically, I feel the movie could have ended with the exact same quote. Each time the story could grow, and change, and become even better than the last. In the end, the story will live on forever.
“In tellin’ the story of my father’s life, it’s impossible to separate fact from fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is tell it the way he told me. It doesn’t always make sense and most of it never happened… but that’s what kinda story this is.”
The emotion I experience is related more to Will’s realization that despite whether the stories are tall tales or fact, his father has such a big heart and lived his life wanting to help people whenever he came across them, he was a very selfless person.
I think this movie deserves a spot on the list but I don’t think I will probably ever watch it again. It was good for a one time watch, and it is very different from the items on this list we have watched so far. I am not surprised it fell so far down the list, and I think there are many better movies ahead of us. However, the all star cast, special effects, acting, and plot definitely earned this film a spot.
I totally agree that this should be on the list and in my opinion probably higher up, but once again we will have to weigh this up against future films. I will watch this again maybe not anytime soon, but I certainly won’t wait the ten years since I first saw it. The strong cast doesn’t disappoint and Tim Burton’s direction and storytelling are as fantastical as always.
Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough
Ewan McGregor is providing narration to a new wildlife documentary series on the Scottish Outer Hebrides with Sir David Attenborough, brother of Sir Richard Attenborough.