25 Days of Christmas: Edward Scissorhands (1990)
I love Edward Scissorhands no matter what. It’s a Christmas staple in my house that expertly combines a fairy tale story with dark, macabre imagery.
What can be said about Edward Scissorhands that hasn’t already been said? This is Tim Burton‘s masterpiece in my opinion, a lofty one considering I was afraid of this movie from ages 5 to 13 (Edward wasn’t exactly a friendly looking character on the surface). Now, this is firmly on my list of favorite movies, especially around Christmas as it tells a fairy-tale story, wrapped up in lessons of tolerance and the cruelty that can be found in suburbia. With a sweet, melodic, haunting score by Danny Elfman and an equally beautiful script by Caroline Thompson, Edward Scissorhands is an off-beat treat to bring out this Christmas.
Isolated in a dark castle for most of his life, a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp) who has scissors for hands is adopted by the kind Avon lady Pam Boggs (Dianne Wiest). Pam takes Edward home to meet her family and is immediately embraced by the town who find him an oddity. Of course Edward soon falls in love with Pam’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder), which upsets Kim’s jealous boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). As Edward struggles to figure out right from wrong the town slowly turns on him.
I actually was lucky to study Edward Scissorhands in a film class which makes me love it even more. It’s a modern-day fairy-tale about a lonely boy who desperately wants love. It’s a take on Pinocchio to be sure, but various elements including a dark castle, and a beautiful but evil witch as seen in the character of Joyce (Kathy Baker) all bind the movie to its fairy-tale roots. The movie is also a harsh look on suburbia and the horror that can be found there. Everyone’s houses are garishly painted, all the cars leave in a precise order showing how organized and bland everything is. When Pam drives up with Edward all the women immediately congregate to see who the new person is, proof that their lives are devoid of excitement.
Of course Edward is different, and the town immediately sees him as some type of loveable freak, and that eventually turns to derision and exclusion. When Edward is finally cast out there’s a tender moment where he’s sitting next to a sheepdog whose eyes are covered with hair, which Edward takes the time to snip. The film signifies Edward opening his eyes to the harsh world, seeing people for who they are. Edward is the sweet innocent that society eventually wants to take over and corrupt before discarding and moving on to the next oddity. There’s a humorous moment with a psychiatrist who says Edward is mentally unable to cope with the real world, but will probably do fine. It’s funny in how stupid the guy is, but also sad that he’s so innocent but he’ll “probably be alright.”
Depp makes the character so sweet and innocent, he’s pretty much the first incarnation of Edward Cullen. His love for Kim is pure, he’s the guy who will do anything “because you asked me to.” Sure Depp doesn’t have his movie star good-looks in this, but there’s a sweetness and naivety behind those eyes. Ryder is equally compelling as Kim while Anthony Michael Hall, the dweeb from Sixteen Candles, shows up all muscley and evil. Shows what all those years of being picked on in John Hughes movies can do.
Edward Scissorhands shows off Tim Burton’s skill before it became all about death and Gothic elements, and Depp being unrecognizable in everything. The movie’s final scene of Kim sums up the beauty of this movie, “You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now… I don’t think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.” The score, the dialogue, the acting, all of it comes together to create a deeply moving film.
Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
Lovely write up. Absolutely love this film and wholeheartedly agree that Burton is yet to better this.
It becomes even more apparent considering Burton’s latest output.
This is definitely a great movie and definite proof Burdeppon can actually work well together. While it is heavy on the fairy tale aspect, I always forget (until re-watching it) that it really doesn’t have a happy ending.
It’s definitely dark, no doubt about that. I think Burdeppon needs to be trademarked by the way!