The phrase "modern-day fairytale" is probably overused, but it’s a spot-on description of Tim Burton’s 1990 film, Edward Scissorhands.
Edward (Johnny Depp) is a man-child created by a kindly inventor (Vincent Price, in an inspired bit of casting) who died before giving Edward hands. Edward is left with oversized, super-sharp scissors where his hands should be, and he is also left all alone in a Gothic mansion overlooking cookie-cutter suburbia.
An Avon lady (Dianne Wiest) comes calling to the mansion one day and is moved by Edward’s strange and lonely life. She brings
him home to stay with her family, including teen daughter Kim (Winona Ryder).
The town embraces Edward at first, thrilled by his strangeness and his ability to style hair and bushes alike. Things change, however, when Kim’s boyfriend Jim, who has been wary of his girlfriend’s houseguest from the very beginning, frames Edward for theft. When Edward accidentally cuts Kim in the film’s beautiful and pivotal snow scene (shavings from Edward’s ice sculpture produce the first snow the town has ever seen), Jim accuses Edward of violence, putting unstoppable and terrible motions into effect.
(Jim is played by a beefed-up Anthony Michael Hall. The casting of Hall as the dumb-jock type is a wonderful in-joke for all the young audiences who had just spent the previous decade watching Hall portray the skinny, braces-wearing geek in numerous John Hughes films.)
Edward Scissorhands earns the moniker of modern-day fairy tale because it includes so many fairy-tale elements, including the monster with the good heart and the woman who sees him for who he truly is, a la Beauty and the Beast. It has a wonderfully story-book ending, not of the "happily ever after" sort, but of the explanatory sort, like the fables about why giraffes have long necks or why elephants have long trunks.
Edward Scissorhands also manages to unsettle its viewers while entertaining them, much like fairy tales do so well ("Grandma, what big teeth you have!"). Edward is a simply heartbreaking character. He is terrifying to look at, and that’s as much due to his horribly sad expression as it is to his lethal fingers.
Edward is as fresh a character today as he was in the beginning of the 1990s. In fact, with all the renewed attention bullying is getting in schools these days, Edward Scissorhands is perhaps even more relevant. Its themes of difference, belonging, and violence are as current today as they were when the film was released. In the way of all classic fairy tales, its story is timeless.
Watch the trailer for Edward Scissorhands.