Big Fish: Tall Tales

[Screenshot]Complete irrelevancy: this one’s title always gets my mental soundtrack playing that Moxy Früvous song. You know, the one about Ontario Premier Mike Harris. Moving on, it’s a Tim Burton film, which means it’s something of a flight of fancy. It’s a bit more restrained than he sometimes is, though, and self-consciously fantastic, with the frame story being about the reality or unreality of the events depicted. It occurs to me to compare the narrative device and theme with that of Graham Greene’s splendid Travels With My Aunt. They differ in key details, but share the central theme of a story’s function with respect to the real world, and the central narrative device of plot progression through in-narative stories (not an original concept, as the Canterbury Tales and Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights will attest, among other works). It does lead me to wonder how Burton would handle Greene’s Travels thoguh. Better than the extant film adaptation—he’d understand the plot and characterizations better—but he probably wouldn’t touch it; it’s too mundane.

The film was in all cinematographic respects well-done, and the stories were great, but there was a big hole, for me at least, in the characters. We never, ever really get a feel for Will’s relationship with his father. It’s unusual, since their relationship is really central to the story, that we know little about it. We know Will is honest to a fault and Edward apparently an inveterate liar, but this isn’t a relationship, it’s just a contrast. Edward’s character seems like an inattentive father, and we irst see him stealing his son’s thunder, but none of this really comes up in the relationship between the two. Will’s resentment being solely motivated by his father’s fiction/dissembling seems a bit too focused, in a way. It seems somehow his neuroses should be more complex and abandonment-based than just “I don’t know the real you!”.

It sounds like I’m slagging the story, but, really, I liked it a lot, even if I saw the Twist (as it were) early on. It’s an American fantasy rich in folk archetypes and a sort of 20th-century symbolism. That can get me going even with the surrounding story a bit weak.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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