“Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.”
Yes, it’s a little odd to have a movie that is equal parts Frankenstein and Hunchback of Notre Dame on a Christmas movie list…but like I said, there’s this odd crossover of Halloween and Christmas in movies…and this movie is simply too touching to be in the Halloween list (oh admit it, you cry when watching Winnona Ryder dance in the snow too).
Tim Burton (who despite his prominence on these lists is not by a long shot my favorite director) has a way of showing that special hell that is suburbia…one of those ways is perhaps the most atrocious color scheme for painting houses you could ever imagine. And I could probably go for quite a long time on the darker side of this film with it rather vicious, though accurate, critique of the failings of human beings and society.
But this story is bookended by scenes of a grandmother telling her granddaughter why it always snows at Christmas…and amazingly enough these rather short moments are enough to wash away all the cynicism and darkness from the movie.
You don’t realize how important the first scene with town covered in snow is until the second time you’ve watched this film, but it is subtle beauty is outdone only by the scenes of Kim dancing in the snow (I miss good actress Ryder, can we return crazy lady Ryder and get the good actress back?)
And while the vast majority of the cast is a living embodiment of the worst in humanity, symbolic of a myriad of sins ranging from lust, envy, greed, apathy, and indifference. But there are some bright spots.
Peg, unconditionally loving, not too bright, but a wonderful mother who sees the best in people, even when there is almost nothing there to see.
The nameless Cop, who like Edward is an outsider (it’s pretty clear that is was a conscious choice by Burton that this is the only non-white actor in the cast, even among extras in the background) and is one of the few who shows true concern for Edward, first in going above and beyond in looking out for him and being the only person to ask if he was going to be all right…and again when he tried to let him escape from the society he would not be all right in.
Kim who in many ways is the only true human of the story. Not perfect, but capable of improvement. But not a caricature of a vice or virtue. She shows us that power of love and redemption being tied together.
And of course Edward. A Quasimodo who is shown the beauty and power of love who is able to dedicate his whole life to giving the woman he loves something she enjoyed.
This group shows us some very wonderful things about the beauty of the human soul and it’s potential.
And then there’s just something about Danny Elfman’s soundtrack. Usually Elfman is good, but this soundtrack, especially at those moment meant to pull at your heart, is great.
And that is why this is one of the greatest Christmas films…