From the Archive: Edward Scissorhands

We started our movie review radio program, The Reel Thing, in the fall of 1990, which meant that we had to contend with the still expanding market of home video. That was how a significant number of people did their movie viewing, and the home video release of a film could be as important of a story as its first sojourn through theaters. Besides, doing home video reviews helped us fill a few more minutes in an hour-long show. Now, I wish we’d more often used the opportunity of another review a few months later to find a way to creatively reappraise works, maybe something akin to what The Dissolve has started doing with the “One Year Later” series. Instead, it was primarily little more than another chance to write about some favorite movie, maybe one the other person on the show had gotten first crack at at the time of its theatrical release. I’m pretty sure that was the case when I wrote about Tim Burton’s first really great film.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is a bittersweet fable which tells us how snow was created. But it’s also something much more than that. Director Tim Burton gives us a moving tale of a lifetime outcast longing for acceptance, misunderstood and feared by the people he wants desperately to embrace. Edward is the creation of a reclusive scientist who died before providing him with real hands rather than the collection of shears that earn the character his last name. He lives a solitary life until a terminally cheery Avon Lady played by Dianne Wiest takes him home to dayglo suburbia, where Edward finally has the possibility of attaining what he’s always dreamed of: companionship and love. They cover his frightening black, leather clothes with friendly suspenders and his scars with makeup, but they can’t change Edward’s awkward and lethal hands which keep him apart from these people. Johnny Depp portrays Edward masterfully. With a handful of timidly uttered lines and his deep, expressive eyes he shows us Edward’s soul and lets us feel his compassion. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS has more depth and genuine emotion than most of Burton’s previous films, making this his most richly satisfying work to date.

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