This is the movie that started one of the longest lasting film partnerships of all time. This was the first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and it is a perfect vehicle for both of them. Burton is great at making a quirky gothic story relatable to a large audience, while Depp is brilliant at creating weird characters likable. They are both at the top of their game here.
Depp plays Edward, a young man who is hiding alone in a large mansion near a small suburban town. He is discovered by Peggy (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon lady, and she takes him down to her house to look after him. Oh, I forgot to mention that Edward has friggin scissors for hands. He is a freak show to the rest of the town, but Peggy and her family eventually accept Edward and his socially awkward behaviour. He also wins over the majority of the town with his dog grooming skills, free haircuts, and awesome gardening. Edward also falls in love with Peggy’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder). This presents a number of problems for Edward, namely her jerk of a boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). The film follows Edward and Kim’s relationship as he slowly becomes more human the more he is around this family.
I really liked this film. It is a sweet film that shows how a seemingly ideal suburb can be just as creepy as an awkward loner with scissors for hands. I really liked that by the end of the film, the guy with scissors for hands seemed like the most normal.
The chemistry between the leads in this film is really good. Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were dating at the time and it is obvious. They have such a great screen presence when they’re together. I also really like Alan Arkin as Peggy’s husband. He is initially a bit grumpy towards Edward, but eventually warms to him and welcomes him into the family home. He was really funny, but this is Depp’s film. I find this one of his best performances. The character of Edward barely has any lines, but Depp is able to convey a lot of emotion just by facial expressions or minimal talking. It is a great achievement from Johnny Depp and a great hint of things to come when he would play quirky oddball characters like Jack Sparrow and Willy Wonka.
My only complaint is that I would have liked to know more about Edward’s past. It is hinted at that he was created by a scientist (Vincent Price) who had a heart attack, leaving Edward alone, but I’d have liked to see more of that history. It is never explained what Edward actually is. Is he a robot, or did the scientist actually manage to invent a real person? If he did create a real person, why’d he decide to give him scissors for hands. For all the great things about this film, I’d have enjoyed it more if I understood where Edward came from a little better. Despite this, Edward Scissorhands is a charming film with a star making performance from Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The leads all have terrific chemistry with each other, and Tim Burton pulls off one of his best directing jobs.
This is the movie that started a decades long partnership between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, is the origin of Depp’s “Winona Forever”/”Wino Forever” tattoo, and is referenced in one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld. Classic doesn’t begin to describe this film.
Seriously though, Edward Scissorhands is one of those lovable, quirky films that is easy to watch over and over. As much as I love Sweeney Todd, it’s not a movie I can stomach that often. But poor, hapless Edward and his scissor hands… it’s adorable watching him make friends with the neighborhood gossips, and heartbreaking when they turn on him. Depp’s performance is perfect, managing to make Edward charming and sympathetic despite hardly speaking a word.
The rest of the cast is also great, though this is certainly Depp’s movie. Standouts include Dianne Wiest as the bubbly Avon Lady who discovers Edward alone in his creator’s mansion, Winona Ryder as her daughter and Edward’s love interest, and Anthony Michael Hall playing against type as Ryder’s jerk of a boyfriend. As with all Burton films, this neighborhood is populated with seemingly normal, but ultimately quirky/outrageous characters. Everyone here is an oddball, they just think they’re all normal.
Another future Burton hallmark are the sets. Scissorhands blends a (mostly) typical looking suburb with gothic elements. The juxtaposition of a pastel cul-de-sac ending with a crumbling gothic mansion is delightfully Burton-esque, and perfectly sets the scene between Edward’s strange world and the weirdness of suburbia. I also really enjoyed the oversized topiaries and crazy haircuts that Edward creates with his fabled hands. It’s just so silly to think that someone could win over a neighborhood so easily, but then again, the guy has scissors for hands. I’m pretty sure that would cause a stir on even the most jaded of streets.