Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting into the season early

As incredibly frustrating as I find it that the Christmas season is starting earlier and earlier each year, I'm not ever going to thumb my nose at an opportunity to see Edward Scissorhands on a big screen. If my parents took my sister and I to see it during its original theatrical release (I would have been four so I doubt it) I don't remember being there, though I do vaguely remember seeing the film on a screen at some point (maybe a drive-in?). So when my sister asked if I wanted to go and my parents decided to come back from vacation early to join us, I was delighted to be all-in with my family to watch the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp masterpiece and get a little ready for Christmas.

I think what I appreciated most seeing Edward Scissorhands on the big screen was the incredible attention to set decoration, costumes, and locations. Edward Scissorhands only works as a story because of how different Edward is from the people of the community - this is reinforced at every level, down to the amount that each character speaks (the spoken words to screen time ratio for speaking characters in this film may actually be a good way to illustrate sympathy to Edward - chatterboxes like Joyce and blowhards like Jim are the most dangerous to Edward, while the relatively quiet Boggs family are the ones who take him in and try to keep him safe) but is perhaps most obvious in the rainbow-sherbert colors of the town and its citizens when contrasted to Edward's dark house on the hill and the dark clothing that he covers up as soon as he arrives. The houses, the cars, the clothes, the decorations - they all do a beautiful job of framing Edward as strange while still appearing disconcerting and strange themselves. We see Marge quietly smoking in a gold room next to an empty playpen, we see Esmeralda in her dim living-room obsessively playing organ and surrounded by candles, we see Joyce's joyless kitchen where she's the only spot of color in yellow and pink and mint green (hilariously Joyce is almost always accompanied by Tom Jones, and she's the only character who gets her own pop music soundtrack), and all of these grotesque caricatures and locations make Edward seem out of place in his universe but more at home in ours. Edward's strangeness in that peach and lavender and periwinkle town is why we identify with him: he looks more like us, wears clothes more like us, and thinks his new home is as strange as we do.

Why does Kim, a senior in high school, have a yellow gingham canopy waterbed covered in hand-made and very creepy stuffed animals? Did Peg make the toys? It seems unlikely (she's the only woman in the city, aside from a teacher who appears in the show-and-tell scene for ten seconds, who appears to have a job) that she'd have had time to make all the creepy toys on Kim's bed. What the hell did Joyce use to turn the ambrosia salad that color? Where are these people's dogs for the rest of the movie - Kisses and Alexis are the only ones we see more than once but it seems like everyone in town has their own doppelganger hound so where are they the rest of the time? Why does everyone have some variety or other of gigantic hedge somewhere on their property? If these aren't questions that Edward has these sure as hell are questions that I have, and his confusion in the face of a scrap-skinned stuffed hippo is all that I need to know he thinks this pastel development is as creepy and yet as giddily inviting as I do.

Seen on the big screen Edward Scissorhands is all textures, the metal and leather of his artificial skin contrasted with shag carpet and chiffon of the little town. The delirious juxtaposition is startling and funny and strangely moving - we don't fit in with these people either, we feel dislocated also, and Edward is our avatar, reaching out to a world he wants to be part of and realizing that he can't hold on.

Ugh, it's hard to believe how much I love this movie. In spite of my general aversion to the Christmas season Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas do a good job of getting me in the holiday spirit, and I'm glad I got to go see it as it was meant to be seen with my family.

     - Alli

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