Johnny Depp acts as the title character of Ed Wood. Photo courtesy of Google Images.
By Dillon Sheehan
Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) is all about a man on a quest. The film tells the story of director Ed Wood, who is known for the terrible low-budget movies he made back in the 1950s. What is Ed’s quest? He aspires to be one of the greats, like his hero Orson Welles. Ed’s story is by no means the greatest one ever told, but this movie shines a fantastical light on his life, creating a funny, but also personal tale.
Ed Wood, portrayed by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), is not your average protagonist. He’s impulsive, controlling, and completely out of tune with reality. However, Depp is able to convey these flaws with sincerity, but also comedically. Along Ed’s journey into the wonderland of Hollywood, he meets an aging Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau (Crimes and Misdemeanors) in an Academy Award winning performance.
Lugosi, best known for his role as Count Dracula, is washed up (something Wood completely dismisses) and addicted to morphine. However, Lugosi’s friendship with Wood gives his career new life, and he even becomes a mentor to Wood.
Being a Tim Burton movie, Ed Wood is filled with eclectic characters, ranging from a transgender drag queen played by Bill Murray (Ghostbusters), a color blind director of photography, and a foul mouthed movie producer played by Mike Starr (Dumb and Dumber). All of the characters are odd ducks trying to fit in with the rest of society.
A major chunk of the movie is focused on the production of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood’s ‘magnum opus’ and considered by many to be one of the worst films ever made. Wood’s neurotic behavior on set as well as other antics surrounding the low-budget shoot are engaging, entertaining, but also head scratching.
We, the audience, question Wood’s insane filmmaking choices, but we also root for him. We want to see Wood get his big break, with the sane and rational characters ultimately becoming the villains.
Ed Wood combines the wild imagination of Tim Burton with a truly unique tale of 1950s Hollywood. The movie captures that 50s feeling by not only being filmed in black and white, but also highlighting the bizarre nature of the decade. We watch as characters try to find themselves in their eccentric and extravagant personas, but also in their conflict with societal norms.
Lugosi struggles to be the star he once was, while the ambiguous sexuality of Ed Wood is gawked at by many. However, through each other, the characters ultimately embrace who they are and become comfortable in their own skin.
5 out of 5 stars.