Review of Big Fish

Big Fish (2003)
Very sweet, imaginative story despite lacking a strong conclusion
8 February 2004
Will Bloom feels like he doesn't really know his father - his habit of telling exaggerated and untrue stories instead of the truth. They don't speak for several years until Will hears that Ed is on his deathbed and returns home. He hopes to find out the truth behind the stories but can only get more of the same without doing some digging.

Even having watched the trailer I was unsure exactly what this film was about, but I trusted that Burton's imagination would carry it. Having seen it, the film can best be described as being about story telling in that the film is more about the wonder of the stories told than the actual narrative in terms of start/middle/end. In terms of the traditional idea of narrative, the film is not perfect - it is not as meaningful or as satisfying as I would have hoped, and this is shown in an ending that, although sweet, is not as neat as I would have hoped. However the telling - that's where it is at.

The stories told are wonderfully whimsical and amusing, like the film states the stories have elements of truth but also be coloured by Bloom to add life to them. For me, it was very simple to get involved in the tall tales and I was held in the spell of Ed's stories easily - even thought it never came to a `real' solution I was still captivated by just how sweet and imaginative it all was. If it sounds like I'm having trouble putting my words together it is because I found the film quite hard to quantify - all I know is that I found the whole experience to be very sweet and enjoyable despite it not really amounting to much in the grand scheme of things. In this regard the film is a consistently imaginative fantasy film that is gently humorous and outright funny at times.

The cast are pretty good. I was originally a little put off by McGregor's Alabama accent and it took me a minute to get past it, but other that his performance was very good and he helped create the film's mood of wonder and whimsy. I think both McGregor and Finney needed to have that sort of accent - I don't know why but it is a storyteller's accent and it does help the material. Finney is good and manages to keep the spirit of McGregor's character going despite not being surrounded by the images to support him. The support cast works well whether they be tall giants or well-known cameos from Buscemi, Carter and Devito. Lange, Crudup and Cotillard are all good but it is easily McGregor and Finney's film.

Overall some will find the lack of structure and real substance to be a problem - after all, this is a film about tall tales and not everyone will be able to enjoy that. However this is a wonderfully light and fun bit of whimsy that is a lot better than I expected it to be. While it may not amount to a great deal more than that, it can still be enjoyed for what it is - a great fun story!
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