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Big Fish

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I have a friend who, for reasons I won’t go into, will remain nameless. He and I often discuss blogging, in particular, how and when to be honest in a blog. His sense is that a blog is a place to express yourself, which means to reveal yourself, which means to tell the “truth.” My sense is that a blog is a place to express yourself, which means to be honest, which may or may not involve telling the “truth” and which will only be revealing in a secondary manner. His blog is full of descriptions of feelings; my blog is full of movie and music reviews.

Big Fish is a movie about a man who tells stories. The relationship of those stories to “reality” is never clearly explained in the film, but my guess is the movie wants us to appreciate that the stories are honest, whether or not they are “real.” The storyteller, played by Albert Finney, is honestly explaining his life when he relates his fantastic anecdotes, and until you can see that, you are blind to truth.

At the film’s end, the storyteller’s son, who has resisted the fables all his life, finally embraces the art of storytelling and becomes a complete man. I don’t know that I buy this … like the storyteller, I have a tendency to reveal myself through my stories rather than through straightforward expressions of my real feelings, but I also believe more in the concrete world than in the world of fantasy.

The problem with Big Fish, and it’s a big one, is that the fabulous tales that are told are often boring (albeit nice to look at) and invariably pointless (is that the point?), which means sitting through the movie isn’t quite the transcendent experience it might seem from the previews. You may think you’re about to spend two hours with the Brothers Grimm, but once Finney starts blathering, you realize that instead you’re stuck for two hours with an insufferable, self-absorbed blowhard.

For me, the ending of the film was moving … it was nice to see how the storyteller had a positive impact on so many people … but it was incongruous with the rest of the movie. The biggest fable of all turns out to be the last one: that all the characters actually liked the garrulous old fool. It was easier for me to believe a giant could move a house with his bare hands, than to believe that anyone would be able to take more than twenty minutes of this guy.

Meanwhile, Big Fish was nominated for an Oscar, which is really the only reason I’m talking about it here. Danny Elfman is up for Original Score. If you’re one of those people who love Elfman’s soundtracks, I think you’ll be disappointed here, since it’s mostly uneventful. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand his goofy soundtracks, you’ll find this less obtrusive than usual, but in either case, you’ll wonder why such a seemingly nondescript score was nominated in the first place. Five on a scale of ten.

P.S. I know a woman who once told me she was friends with Danny Elfman’s mother, and that in fact she knew Danny when he was “in his mother’s tummy.” I wonder if that’s a true story.

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About Steven Rubio

  • I liked Big Fish a lot. It reminded me of how different I thought my father and I were, until he was dying a slow death from a brain tumor. The more time I spent with him, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much he had passed on to me. So, the movie’s ending made me cry.

    I can see why other people might not like the film, though.

  • The movie’s ending made me cry, too … I just didn’t feel the previous two hours had done enough to deserve my tears.

  • I tend to think that there are three broad categories of films (granted, I’m full of crap a lot of the time, but I do happen to think this is reasonably close to the mark):

    Some films are clearly good or bad. “Casablanca” is, no matter what anyone says, a great film. If you don’t like it, there’s something wrong with *you*.

    The majority of popular films are fairly easy to examine and pick apart, and criticizing or praising their specific elements is pretty straightforward. Example: Bad script + good effects + boobs = success (usually), for an easily predicted demographic.

    Other films just refuse to be quantified. Yeah, you can still talk about the quality of the script, or the performances… but ultimately it is a matter of purely personal taste, much more so than with most other films. Either it all comes together and works for you, or it doesn’t. I think “Big Fish” is one of these.

    It happend to work pretty well for me, by the way… but yeah, I would have liked Elfman’s score to contain more of his trademark weirdness.