Ed Wood (1994)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Showbiz Drama  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - Canada , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Mark Deming

Tim Burton's Ed Wood is a delightfully entertaining and uniquely inspiring film about an artist in love with his medium. Never mind that the artist in question, Edward D. Wood Jr. (played with panache by Johnny Depp), is generally believed to be the worst movie director who ever lived; Burton and screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski play Wood's story mostly for laughs, but they also have a genuine fondness and respect for Wood and his never-ending uphill struggle to put his crackpot ideas on screen. For Wood, any day in which he stood behind the camera was a good day, and if his sets were cardboard, his special effects laughable, his dialogue mind-bogglingly bizarre, and his cast a ragtag band of losers, misfits, and has-beens, none of it mattered as much as the simple fact that he was making a film. Ed loved movies with all his heart and soul, despite his lack of talent, and he surrounded himself with people who, like himself, were drawn to the life-changing magic of Hollywood and determined to be a part of it. While it would be easy (and perhaps more realistic) to show the lives of Ed and his friends as sad, Burton understands that a dream in the face of impractical circumstances is a big part of being a filmmaker, and if these characters often seem goofy, they just as often seem to feel strangely honored to be scraping by in the shadow of the Dream Factory. And the friendship between Ed and the aging Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), in poor health and addicted to drugs, is touching in the least cloying of ways, as an old man who has been stripped of his dreams finds work with a young man whose dreams still keep him going. Plenty of films have been made about people who made it in Hollywood, but Ed Wood is the best film about the people who didn't, perhaps because Burton seems to understand that the biggest thing separating him from his subject is not talent but luck.