There is a reason I put Big Fish on my reading list. I loved the movie. Yes I saw the movie first, that happens (see last month’s posting; Babette’s Feast). Now I see the musical version is in the works. Will I go to a musical? Not sure. I have no idea how a musical can do the movie/book justice and sometimes it is better to stay with the positive interpretations. If the musical leaves one with a bland or even bad taste in the mouth everything gets tainted. Then again, if it is good …
Perhaps just commenting on what I have seen will do for now.
It is extremely difficult to either find the truth or, to understand it; take it from me I’ve been trying all my life. In Big Fish Edward Bloom remains a huge mystery to his son Will and by not understanding his father he grew estranged. But when Edward is confined to his deathbed his son tries to get to know the real man and mend their relationship. Will, a journalist, begins piecing together a true picture of his father using flashbacks of the stories told and a bit of investigative journalism.
First the stories (there are so many tales I have to list them):
Edward Bloom tells many tales, many times over the years. For example; on the day Will was born, he was out catching an enormous uncatchable fish, using his wedding ring as bait. Edward also braved a swamp as a child, and met a witch who showed him his death in her glass eye. With this knowledge, Edward said, he knew there were no odds he could not face. Edward also claimed he spent three years confined to a bed as a child because his body was growing too fast. He became a successful sports player, but Ashton, his home town, was too small for his ambitions so he set off with the misunderstood giant named Karl. Edward discovers the hidden town of Spectre, where everyone is friendly to the point of comfortably walking around barefoot. Edward leaves because he does not want to settle anywhere yet, but promises to the town mayor’s daughter Jenny that he will return. Edward also tells of the time he and Karl worked at a circus; Edward works without pay, as he has been promised by the ringmaster Amos Calloway that each month he will learn something new about a girl he fell in love with. Three years later, having only learned trivia about her, Edward discovers Amos is a werewolf. In return for his refusal to harm him in his monstrous state, Amos tells Edward the girl’s name is Sandra Templeton and she studies at Auburn University. The story is based in Alabama so it had to be an Alabama school, right?
Edward learns Sandra is engaged to Don Price, whom Edward always overshadowed during his days in Ashton. Sandra makes Edward promise not to fight Don. Edward doesn’t fight but Don does leaving Edward in bad shape. Don’s actions disgust Sandra into ending their engagement and falling for Edward. Edward later reveals that Don died from a heart attack on the toilet bowl at an early age (Don saw his own death in the Witch’s eye). During his recovery, Edward is conscripted by the army and sent to the Korean War. He parachutes into the middle of a show entertaining North Korean troops, steals important documents, and convinces Siamese twin dancers Ping and Jing to help him escape. He tells them he can make them stars in the U.S. but he is unable to contact anyone on his journey home (no cell phones back then), and the military declares him dead. This limits Edward’s job options when he does return home, so this is why he became a traveling salesman. Meeting the poet Norther Winslow (who was from Spectre), he unwittingly helps him rob a bank, which is already bankrupt. Edward suggests Winslow work at Wall Street, and Winslow thanks Edward for his advice by sending him $10,000, which he uses to buy a dream house.
Now, The investigation:
Will has heard his father’s stories before but as he sits near his ailing father he demands to know the truth. Edward tells his son, that is who he is: a storyteller. Will does go out on the road and finds Spectre. He also meets an older Jenny, who explains that Edward rescued the town from bankruptcy by buying it at an auction and rebuilding it with financial help from many of his previous acquaintances. Will thinks his father had been having an affair with Jenny, to which she replies that while she had indeed fallen in love with him, Edward could never love any woman other than Sandra. When Will returns to his father’s house he is informed his father had a stroke. He goes to visit him in the hospital and finds him only partly conscious. Edward can no longer tell stories, so he asks his son to tell him the story of how it all ends. Will begins to understand and he helps his father escape from the hospital. They go to the river where everyone in Edward’s life appears to him and bids him goodbye. Will carries his father into the river where he becomes what he always had been: a very big fish.
At Edward’s funeral, Will is shocked to see Amos and Karl (who is taller than average, though not an actual giant) arrive. He also catches sight of Norther Winslow speaking with Ping and Jing (who are merely identical, not conjoined). Will finally realizes the truth of his father’s stories. When his own son is born, Will passes on his father’s stories, remarking that his father became his stories, allowing him to live forever.