‘Ed Wood’ is a remarkable film because it showcases Burton’ strengths and none of his weaknesses. It’s his most “normal” movie, taking place in a world that is recognizably our own, but it contains everything that he has ever been passionate about. It may not be “the ultimate Tim Burton movie,” but it’s certainly the best thing he’s ever put his name on.
A loosely fictionalized look at Edward D. Wood Jr., ‘Ed Wood’ is an affection portrait of a man who would later become infamous as the worst filmmaker of all time. But through Burton’s lens, he’s so much more. He’s a passionate artist, a hard worker, and a man with a genuine vision. He doesn‘t allow his total lack of talent to get in his way. He just wants to make movies and he’ll stop at nothing to tell the stories he wants to tell.
Although Burton obviously had far more success than Wood, it’s easy to see why any filmmaker would find themselves sympathetic and fascinated by him. On top of just being a crazy character (he was a cross-dresser and a decorated World War II veteran and a moviemaker), he represents the core of anyone who lives to create. He’s pure joy and enthusiasm, an optimistic bundle of energy who builds a family out of the freaks he meets on the fringes of Hollywood. This is one of the most compassionate movies ever made about filmmaking and a hilarious, sad look at how film crews straddle the line between traveling circus and extended family. Depp has never been better.
The key to the film is the relationship between Wood and aging horror icon Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his performance). Surely Burton saw a little of himself in this element, since he befriended the great Vincent Price in the years before he died, even giving him a role in ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ If this was Burton’s emotional gateway into the story, then the rest of the film flourishes as a result. This sweet, sad, strange, hilarious little movie is one of the best films to come out of ’90s and a reminder that Burton can do so much more when given the proper material.