It is, unsurprisingly, very easy to be bad at something. Really, anyone can be bad at anything, if they put their mind to it; however it’s something else entirely to be the worst. To be universally recognized as the worst of anything takes something truly special. In Ed Wood Johnny Depp portrays the titular director/writer/actor and his unique experience in dealing with Hollywood and all it’s various forms of monsters. Wood’s cinematic atrocities stemmed from a passion for the craft that he strives to be recognized in. And recognized he certainly was, only it was in ways that he never intended.
Ed Wood chronicles the career of Edward D Wood Jr. His meager beginnings as a stage director morphs into a screen debut when he befriends aging horror actor Bela Lugosi and they begin to make pictures together. With a smidgen of star power on his side, Wood continues to take his motley crew through a series of backyard special effects fueled adventures as he discovers and refines his all engrossing passion. The lengths and determination behind Wood are incredible. Single takes, no filming permits and replacing deceased actors mid feature are just a few of the faux pas that he commits. All Edward Wood wanted to do was to make movies, and make them he did, his rapid fire pace when shooting scenes jumps to the screen through Johnny Depp’s charisma. Wood’s motley crew of Hollywood misfits and has-beens become increasingly entertaining through the duration of the film. Cardboard effects bizarre story lines and angora sweaters power the madness of Ed Wood.
Tim Burton directed this film, and while his signature visual style is ever present, it doesn’t make it any less attractive to look at. Few people choose to film entirely in black and white, but it was a decision that certainly worked in favor of the film as a whole. Burton, like wood, sees his movie as a big picture, he maintains complete control of the feature and all it’s overarching components. Unlike wood, he is careful to pay attention to the small details as well. Choosing the perfect cast, he matches them with great costumes and set designs that are just as terrible as an Ed Wood biographical film should be. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi, he matches the facial expressions and dialogue of the legendary actor excellently, while at the same time delivering a performance that is entirely his own.
This is the “follow your heart” message that Disney has been pumping out for years, however where Disney assures you you’ll be good at whatever you aspire to, Ed Wood lets you know that you may just be terrible at it. Burton seems to use this not as a discouraging tactic, but rather as a way to speak the message of the film, which is to do what makes you happy, and pursue it with all you’ve got. Whether that’s a message you can get behind or not, it doesn’t detract from the entertainment or visual value of the film. Burton presents us with a movie that is far different from the majority of his filmography, it is far slower, taking it’s time to allow the themes, characters and emotions to stew and sink in. This is an oft overlooked piece that deserves far more recognition than most of Burton’s recent works. However, his demographic tends to be teens with a slightly darker side, and this may not appeal to them. Burton chose to make a film he wanted to make, and thanks to that we have Ed Wood.