Gilbert Speaks on Tim Burton’s Big Fish

27 Dec


Big Fish is a 2003 fantasy film that was based on a novel by Daniel Wallace. It tells the story about a father with big tales and a son who longs for the truth. Now that the father is near death, will the son ever learn the truth? When is a lie not a lie? Meet me after the jump


Big Fish directed by Tim Burton and produced by Richard D. Zanuck stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Marion Cotillard and Danny Devito. It deals with a father who was away most of the time his son was growing up and now that the father (Albert Finney) is on his deathbed, his son (Billy Crudup) wants to know if his father ever loved him. Although this is a story about fathers and sons, daughters can clearly connect to the plot.


What do we really know about our parents? William (Billy Crudup) has been listening to his Edwards’s (Albert Finney) stories about giants, werewolves, witches, and magical towns for a long time. Will may have believed the stories as a young child, but now that he is grown, married and expecting his first child to be born, the stories that amuse everyone else, only make William feel more distant to his father. “Tell me the truth,” Will demands, but Edward insists that his wild tales are true.

We, the audience, listen intently as Edward repeats the story of his life through flashbacks. Young Edward is played by Ewan McGregor and the love of Edward’s life, Sandra, is played by Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman. We, the audience, leap head first into the flashbacks that reveal how Edward sets out on the journey of a lifetime filled with many lovable and peculiar people.


While Will squirms in his seat whenever Edward begins another story, I find myself wanting more. Did Edward really parachute into a North Korean military show only to be rescued by conjoined Siamese twins, Ping and Jing? Was Jenny Hill (Helena Bonham Carter) a real witch? Was Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito) the circus ringmaster a werewolf? What we know for sure is that Big Fish is a love story that shows what a man must endure to win the heart of the woman he loves.


I think everybody has a story to tell…some do it better than others. I really connected to this old film and watch it every time it’s on cable. It reminds me of my father and his stories. Fred would tell fantastical stories and as children, my siblings and I believed him. My father told us that the horrid scars on his leg were from a war injury. He told us in detail how he was shot in the leg and how he hopped for miles on one leg until he reached safety.


Yes, I know…the entire story was bullshit, but when my father told that story, we kids believed him and thought him the bravest of soldiers. It wasn’t until we were in grade school that we began to scrutinize the story. My father was never in the military. His injury was due to a sled accident. But although the real reason for the scars is a worthy enough story, my father needed to tell his story in his own way.

In Big Fish, Will had never believed in his father’s stories until the very end. It wasn’t until the funeral that Will realized that the stories Edward told were true in their own way. The people in Edward’s exaggerated stories were real down to earth people who were made magical in the telling of the tale.


We all need some magic in this life and although my father often exaggerated in his tales, the truth, I came to learn, was more fantastical. Like the time he told Aunt Louise that he built a pigeon coup on the roof of our second story home. He went into detail how his bum leg would keep him from climbing the ladder to feed the pigeons. He wanted her husband Jack to feed the pigeons. Aunt Louise was not at all happy about her husband spending hours at our house every night to feed some stupid pigeons.

My father would have gotten along great with Edward from Big Fish. Fred was a good story teller, but the truth…there were no pigeons…just a card game that Uncle Jack wanted to be part of.

Watch Big Fish if you can. It is a feel good film for those who weave the stories and for those who listen.



2 Responses to “Gilbert Speaks on Tim Burton’s Big Fish”

  1. Saundra Goodson December 27, 2016 at 4:48 am #

    Marie, I was privileged to attend a workshop given by the author of Big Fish, Daniel Wallace (who also happens to be from Alabama, like me). What a wonderful experience and learning opportunity. He is quite personable. Love your blog!!!

    • gilbertspeaks December 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      Hi Saundra. You are so lucky. I would have loved to ask him questions about his inspiration for the story. And, I’m so happy that you like my blog

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