December 10th, 2008

tolkien lacked teens in glitter

Big Fish

I recently saw the movie "Big Fish". I'm not normally big on movies, but I recommend it highly.

It's silly, but works well, and it has a surprising number of actors you've heard of -- Danny DeVito, Ewan MacGregor, Albert Finney, Helena Bonham-Carter, directed by Tim Burton. It's about a young man telling the story of his father, who is an old Southern man with a story for every occasion, usually tall tales. The older man is very charming in a Southern full-of-bullshit sort of way, and it's hard not to like him. Finney does a fine job. misternihil: he's the same guy who plays Scrooge (young and old) in "Scrooge", thirty-some years later.

I originally found it because of the line, "those things which we think of as evil are usually just lonely, and lacking in social graces." A powerful line, one I like, but not one that's particularly central to the movie, it turns out. But Finney has the kind of understanding of people that the phrase implies, and a basic love of human beings which is why he's so charming. He's not a perfect fellow, and he makes the occasional mistake, but he has wonderful adventures (time working for a circus, wooing his wife, meeting a giant, wandering the woods in the dark, rehabilitating and old crumbling town) and turns them into over-the-top stories.

The movie is partly about that, a bit of a restrained Alabama version of Baron Munchausen, but also about how hard it is to be his son. The son is the narrator, primarily, and is a much more grounded and down-to-earth guy. He loves his dad, but also feels like he's been lied to so constantly that he doesn't know anything about him. That's hard, and it shows. Billy Crudup does a fine job of portraying the son, half disillusionment about his never-honest father, half hope because he wants so much to like the old man.

I won't spoil the ending with specifics. It's a fairy tale, not a modern drama, and it all comes out pretty well in the end. But in with the beauty, there's sadness, the way fairy tales used to be. It's worth seeing.