Cert: 15 Runtime: 127 mins Director: Tim Burton Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray and Jeffrey Jones
Eddie, we’re in show biz. It’s all about razzle-dazzle. Appearances. If you look good, and you talk well, people will swallow anything
Almost more than any other director, Tim Burton constantly pursues his own continually unique and quirky style; his vision is unlike any other auteur’s. His mark on his movies is unmistakable, and you either simply love or hate his body of work. I once belonged to the latter; I dismissed Burton as the creator of “ultra-gothic self-indulgence”, a man merely intent on being so radically different he forced his quirkiness. But the more I watched, the more I came to liking that embracing of his inner freakish, yet wondrous imagination.The same could almost be said of universally titled “worst director of all time”, Ed Wood; a filmmaker who also persisted in following a vision only he could create, despite uniform critical displeasure, a lack of talent or access to the proper money amounts. Too bad his vision was one only he could appreciate.Hollywood visionary Tim_Burton pays homage to another Hollywood visionary, albeit a less successful one, in this unusual fictionalized biography. The film follows Wood (Johnny_Depp) in his quest for film greatness as he writes and directs turkey after turkey, cross-dresses, and surrounds himself with a motley crew of Hollywood misfits, outcasts, has-beens, and never-weres. The real story, however, is his friendship with aging, morphine-addicted Bela Lugosi(Martin_Landau), whom he tries to help stage a comeback.
Burton’s full on embracement of Wood and the man’s love for his own garbage-kitsch that makes me believe “Ed Wood’ is one of the greatest bio-films ever made. The movie works because it doesn’t look upon Wood as cinema’s worst director; it doesn’t look upon him and his crew as weird. It presents them to us as they are, and then let’s us judge. Here there is no unnecessary segment of Ed’s childhood; no scenes that attempt to explain his quirks with selective incidents. He is the way he is, we can’t tell you why, and this is what he did. What do you think? That’s the brilliant mentality at work behind the scenes.And if you think that Burton, a creator of intangible fantasies, can’t make art of real-life, then you are sorely mistaken. This is right up his alley; the story of Wood and his demented, misfit ensemble is almost too strange to be real. It’s surreal; we’re thrust into this world of transvestites and bad talent so whole-heartedly, with the same rough pluck as Wood himself, the experience is a dreamlike examination of a flamboyant and mysterious personality. And in some scenes, it’s just flat-out hilarious; “Ed Wood” has a great, sharp sense of humor.
The story-telling is of course further enhanced by another astonishing, melodious soundtrack from Danny Elfman (the composer behind many Tim Burton movies); as well as the crisp, black and white cinematography (one more thing that creates the time period on top of excellent makeup, set design, and costumes). But more importantly, is the cast’s success (and there’s a handful of big names here).Sarah Jessica Parker is great as Ed’s first girlfriend, one of the few in the movie to look down upon him and his quirks (most especially his love of dressing up like a woman, despite being absolutely straight); Bill Murray is well-cast as Ed’s transsexual friend; Patricia Arquette (girlfriend #2) is phenomenal; Martin Landau is nothing short of amazing as aged and washed-up actor Bela Lugosi: humorous, emotionally-wrecked, embittered, and gaining genuine pathos from the audience, sometimes all at once. Naturally the film rests on Johnny Depp’s shoulders, and as one of the most brilliant and talented contemporary actors today, he is as magnificent here as he is in other projects. Without hesitation he throws himself into the part of Ed Wood; dawning up convincingly as a woman, employing a softer, more high-pitched voice (which could have been disastrous) to well effect, and performing both Ed’s indestructible pluck and occasional descent into depression with equal, tour-de-force abandon.Ed Wood is an honest, humorous, and superbly crafted bio-pic; one that makes me so much more desiring for other films about famous directors.