The film opens in a classic fairytale setting where
grandmother is tucking in granddaughter. As Burton would have
it, it's a cold wintry night and the snow outside is falling.
Since the granddaughter can't fall asleep she asks her grandmother
to tell her a story about how the snow came to fall which of course
sets the stage to launch us into fairytale land of the past as
the grandmother reflects back on how one man by the name of Edward
(Johnny Depp) was responsible for making the snow fall in her
As the scene pans back in time the classic dark
fairytale commences with a memorably dark montage of caricature
and animation that tells of a bizarre laboratory located in the
hull of a dark mansion atop an isolated hill wherein lives an
uncanny, albeit brilliant and gentle Inventor (Vincent Price)
who dreams of creating a man. But old in age and living alone,
the creative man soon dies before he can complete his project.
Thus alone, and incomplete, Edward Scissorhands spends his days
in exile away from the social utopia of his neighborhood, that
is, until his local Avon lady, Peg (Dianne West), pays him an
Discovering him to be alone the humanitarian Peg
takes Edward back to her home where she can help raise and 'civilize'
him. Meanwhile the nosy neighbors, bored with playing the role
of lonely housewife 24/7, have taken a keen interest in their
mysterious new guest. After a successful BBQ Edward becomes all
the rave of the town. One by one the female neighbors take an
uncanny interest, some more sensually motivated than others, in
their new neighbor and implore Edward to pay them luncheon visits.
In the midst of all their cookies and "lemonade" Edward
returns their hospitality via striking garden sculptures, pet
and personal hair care and styling, as well as a myriad of other
While Joyce (Kathy Baker) does her best to seduce
her unsuspecting neighbor, it seems Edward may have another female
in mind, such as Peg's daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder). But Kim is
a self-conscious teenage girl weary of other people's opinions,
including those of her hotshot boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael
Hall). As Jim begins to suspect Edward's particular affections,
he plots how to set Edward up to slander his reputation. One innocent
criminal moment next and suddenly Edward goes from being the "talk
of the town" to being, "the talk of the town",
only this time in a bad way. What was once an esteemed unique
young gentleman is now being turned into a criminal 'sex offender'
as Jim, Joyce, and the rest of the offended neighbors do their
best to oust the naïve Edward who refuses to play into their traps.
With Christmas on the near horizon, Peg struggles
to keep alliances with her now weary neighbors who are beginning
to speculate attending her local Christmas party primarily because
of her precarious guest of honor. Meanwhile the innocent Edward
makes it snow for the first time in the history of the town with
the help of a giant ice sculpture. But wile Kim is standing invisibly
by, her troublemaking boyfriend shows up to make trouble for Edward
by once again falsely accusing him of troubles of which he is
entirely innocent. But with everyone weary of Edward's now volatile
humor scaring the entire neighborhood it seems that perhaps the
only thing for Edward to do is to go back home to his house on
the hilltop. With the police after a missing Edward, Kim anxiously
questioning her feelings, the nosy female neighbors all upset
(gathering on their trademark corner to gossip about everything
and nothing at all), and a reflective Peg speculating Edward's
precarious future, and Bill (Alan Arkin) searching for his 'foster
son' in vain, all hold their breath in anticipation of hearing
some word from their notorious neighbor... Edward Scissorhands.
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, like much of Burton's work,
is an amazing conflation of good and bad, fantasy and nightmare,
romance and horror, all juxtaposed into a Technicolor wonder as
the audience watches Edward move in and out of utopian modern
day suburbia to the starkly contrasting "haunted hilltop
mansion". With much the same Burton flair as his films "Nightmare
Before Christmas" (in deed one can't help but see an uncanny
resemblance between Jack Frost and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, "Big
Fish", and "Batman" there is always the genre of
Gothic running through his works. From the architecture, to the
costumes, to the themes, the potent prevalence of Gothic pervades
Burton's films with fantastic picaresque panache.
Moreover, in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS the contrast between
a Gothic "outcast" immersed in the Technicolor vacuum
of suburbia is a wonderful treat; both cinematically and thematically,
as Burton interweaves complex montages, literary conventions,
and thematics into a vivid spectacle of striking art direction
and cinematography. Adding further complexity to the film and
arguably operating as the fundamental component assisting in the
continuous recognition of the fantasy genre is the film's score.
Both haunting though compelling, soothing yet melancholic, the
score lingers in high octaves that smack of a boys choir singing
Christmas carols to bell accompaniment; a perfect backdrop for
the book-ended winter-set scenes.
More than a visual spectacle, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
is a remarkably witty script. Nuance and detail is observed in
everything from the set descriptions, to the characterization,
to the witty metaphors and often trite insights into the sheltered
naivete of Edward's psyche, as is realized by his inability to
recognize the most commonplace social interactions and vernacular
(for instance the shish kabob scene). Tim Burton steps into the
shoes of "the inventor" and brings to life yet another
real "anti-heroic" masterpiece that, like its Burton
predecessor "Batman", creates the complexly ambivalent
anti-hero; innocent, jaded, neither wholly good, or wholly bad,
and inept to fully comprehend the unnecessary evils of society.
That said, Johnny Depp is simply spectacular and it's a real treat
to watch him immerse himself in the uncanny role of this half-machine,
half-human exile that, scissors, black combat boots, and all,
is the most unlikely gentleman to emerge on the silverscreen in
a long while. Though Arkin, West, Ryder, and Baker all did fantastic
jobs with their role, Depp is simply a stand out in the film.
As one critic notes of the film: "Like eve[r]ything
I've seen by Tim Burton, this film is at one and the same time,
warm and frightening, tender and heart-wrenchingly evil, uplifting
and dark. The good and bad in humanity are [depicted in easily
observable, albeit stark contrasts]..."
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS was nominated for an Oscar for
Best Makeup. The film also garnered another 5 wins including the
Academy of Sci-Fi's Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and 10
nominations including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance
by an Actor (Johnny Depp).
Johnny Depp plays Edward Scissorhands, the uncannily
Winona Ryder plays Kim, Edward's first potential
Dianne Wiest plays Peg, your local Avon lady who
takes Edward under her wing.
Alan Arkin plays Bill, Peg's supportive wife.
Anthony Michael Hall plays Jim, Kim's hotshot boyfriend.
Kathy Baker plays Joyce, Peg's nosy, sexually precocious
Robert Oliveri plays Kevin, Peg's inquiring young
Vincent Price plays the Inventor, the man behind
the creation of Edward Scissorhands.