Plot – Ambitious but troubled movie director Edward D. Wood Jr. tries his best to fulfil his dreams, despite his lack of talent – Ed Wood .
Director – Tim Burton
Released – 1994
It’s pretty safe to say that Tim Burton is the most unique mainstream director currently working today, someone who most people either love or hate, something that can also be said for Johnny Depp. who goes through phases of being excellent or a parody of himself, which is partly the reason why it took so long for me to experience Ed Wood, but some films definitely worth the wait.
Chronicling the career of famed bad director Ed Wood, truly one unique individual’s working in Hollywood during the ’50s/60s; a cross-dresser with a love of angora jumpers, Wood churned out some more horrifically bad films ever to grace the cinema screen, culminating with the so bad its good Plan Nine From Outer Space.
This isn’t necessarily a happy story to tell, but Burton wisely only covers the period from Wood’s first movie, Glen or Glenda, through the premiere of Plan Nine, ending the film before Wood was forced into making pornographic movies, which would have left the movie with an entirely darker finale.
Luckily for Wood, Burton’s love and admiration for his contemporary and his movies shines through in practically every frame and I find Burton to be a needlessly artsy filmmaker, here his style serves him well, managing to marry up the style of the film with that of Wood’s film’s. Partly through the use of black & white, but also because we see all of the people Wood associated, not as the outsiders they were, but rather the way Ed probably saw them.
Depp is simply brilliant here, easily capturing Wood’s enthusiasm for film-making and his interesting viewpoints, but he does so in a charming and positive manner. Wood never lets his failures drag him down and Depp fully illustrates this, clearly revelling in the role. It also doesn’t hurt that he is surrounded by an extremely entertaining supporting cast who are also clearly having fun in their roles, namely Bill Murray as Bunny Breckenridge, who dreams of having a sex change, but their play never works out or Lisa Marie is as Vampira.
But there’s one performance that outshines even that of Depp’s; Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. It’s not a surprise that he won the Oscar for his performance and deservedly so. Presenting Lugosi as an actor at the end of his life, washed-up and full of regret for the roles he turned down and how his life had turned out.
When Landau is on screen, he virtually disappears in the role, almost as if it’s Lugosi himself. Again, we see him not only as he was but also how Wood saw him. Especially the monologue in which Lugosi recites a speech that Wood had written for him about at one point having the world at his feet, is particularly haunting and Landau simply nails it.
Ed Wood is a rare beast, it’s a Tim Burton film that doesn’t feel like it’s gone overboard, but also it’s a movie about Hollywood that isn’t entirely self-indulgent. I was impressed by this film for a multitude of reasons, most particularly Burton’s restrained direction and the performances of Depp and Landau. All of which combine to create a perfect tribute to the life and works of Ed Wood recently voted the worst director of all time.
If you liked: The Disaster Artist, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow