A manmade boy with scissors for hands finds a troublesome mixture of acceptance and rejection in the outside world. [Dir: Tim Burton/ Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne West, Vincent Price/ 100 min/ SciFi-Fantasy, Comedy, Romance/ Social Tolerance]
This film is a wonderful cinematic fable with a kindhearted message about the treatment of “different” people. The character at the center of it is a manmade boy with scissors for hands, whose inventive maker died before giving him real hands. The boy is discovering living alone in an abandoned mansion by an enterprising Avon lady, who takes pity on him and brings him back to her home. Upon arriving, he finds himself in a pastel-hued suburbia, full of conventional people leading conventional lives. He is noticeably out of place. In most ways, having scissors for hands is very awkward in this world. However, his dexterity with them enables him to excel at a few things – trimming shrubs, styling hair, and grooming pets – all of which he does with great flair. At one level he is accepted, even praised foe these unusual abilities. But at the same time there is an underlying mistrust of him among the neighbors. He is different therefore suspect. This mistrust is ultimately revealed when he is made the unwitting fall guy for a local burglary attempt and is convicted in the court of public opinion. In the end, he must escape back to the abandoned mansion from which he came, hounded by an angry, ignorant mob. This is, of course, fundamentally a tragedy. Edward Scissorhands is a lonely artist, a misunderstood hero, a handicapped nice guy – and the world has no place for him. However, there’s also a lot of comedy in this story, because the reactions to Edward Scissorhands, bizarre creature that he is, are often understated and humorous in a deadpan way. In typical Tim Burton directorial, this story is told with tremendous imagination. The music is haunting and memorable. Every scene is filled with visual artistry, from the Gothic castle where the semimechanical Edward Scissorhands is engineered and created, to the artificial suburban world into which he is introduced. Also in the plus column, Johnny Depp gives an inspired performance in the leading role and is supported by a perfectly cast (and ditzy) Winona Ryder, as the naïve Avon lady who shepherds Edward Scissorhands through the events of the story. Vincent Price has a small part of that he carries off with style. This film is a pleasurable to watch and its social tolerance message is ageless – as befits a fable.
This article was reprinted from Jon Osborne's Miss Liberty's Guide to Film and Video: Movies for the Libertarian Millenium, available in the Advocates Liberty Store.