I still remember seeing the trailer with my dad at the now gone Southbridge Theatre in Littleton, Colorado. A man with long, intimidating scissors for hands is welcomed into a neighborhood, falls in love with Winona Ryder, and tries not to slice the locals during the introductory handshake.
After the preview, my dad was quick to respond, “That looks stupid.” I agreed.
Several months later, our opinions changed when we rented the film on VHS and found ourselves mesmerized by Director Tim Burton’s vision and Johnny Depp’s portrayal as outcast Edward Scissorhands. Both can only be described as hauntingly beautiful.
Believe it or not, in 1990, no one really knew who Johnny Depp, aka Jack Sparrow, was. Burton just broke eccentric ground with Beetlejuice (1988), and Hollywood ground with Batman (1989) directly after. Winona Ryder turned down the role of Michael Corleone’s daughter in Godfather Part III (1990) to play Edward’s unlikely lover.
Edward is the creation of a semi-mad scientist played by renowned actor Vincent Price. The inventor dies just before he can replace Edward’s sheers with synthetic hands. Without his master, Edward agrees to live with a visiting Avon lady (a sweet but ditsy Dianne Wiest) and her family, including the remote yet alluring daughter (Winona Ryder).
It’s the Ugly Duckling story set in the pastel suburbs. Maybe Edward’s topiary gardening and hair styling skills can help him gain acceptance.
Why does this make the perfect Christmas movie?
Aside from taking place during Christmas, there’s the monumental scene that won me over: Edward carves an angel out of an ice block with his scissors, shedding small snowy fragments over Winona as she dances in her backyard. Danny Elfman’s wondrous motif climbs to an apex, Winona smiles out of an unleashed innocence, and the darkness of the night doesn’t seem so dark anymore.
As with any Tim Burton film, it’s better to watch and listen than to analyze the oddball plot line. Simply replace “nightmare” with “dream” in The Nightmare before Christmas, and you’ll get it.
To this day, Dad and I still talk about Edward, his struggle, and the enchanting mystery behind it all.
Edward Scissorhands would later be turned into an unfortunate musical parody, Winona has been revitalized through Stranger Things, Tim Burton is now a household director name among the greats, and Johnny Depp…
Who knows where his head has been for the last decade.
Perhaps Edward could help sew it back on.
Edward Scissorhands (1990) **** out of *****