United Press International journalist Will Bloom and his French freelance photojournalist wife Josephine Bloom, who is pregnant with their first child, leave their Paris base to return to Will’s hometown of Ashton, Alabama on the news that his father, Edward Bloom, stricken with cancer, will soon die, he being taken off chemotherapy treatment. Although connected indirectly through Will’s mother/Edward’s wife, Sandra Bloom, Will has been estranged from his father for three years since his and Josephine’s wedding. Will’s issue with his father is the fanciful tales Edward has told of his life all his life, not only to Will but the whole world. As a child when Edward was largely absent as a traveling salesman, Will believed those stories, but now realizes that he does not know his father, who, as he continues to tell these stories, he will never get to know unless Edward comes clean with the truth before he dies. On the brink of his own family life beginning, Will does not want to be the …
User Reviews: Will Bloom feels like he doesn’t really know his father – his habit of telling exaggerated and untrue stories instead of the truth. They don’t speak for several years until Will hears that Ed is on his deathbed and returns home. He hopes to find out the truth behind the stories but can only get more of the same without doing some digging.
Even having watched the trailer I was unsure exactly what this film was about, but I trusted that Burton’s imagination would carry it. Having seen it, the film can best be described as being about story telling in that the film is more about the wonder of the stories told than the actual narrative in terms of start/middle/end. In terms of the traditional idea of narrative, the film is not perfect – it is not as meaningful or as satisfying as I would have hoped, and this is shown in an ending that, although sweet, is not as neat as I would have hoped. However the telling – that’s where it is at.
The stories told are wonderfully whimsical and amusing, like the film states the stories have elements of truth but also be coloured by Bloom to add life to them. For me, it was very simple to get involved in the tall tales and I was held in the spell of Ed’s stories easily – even thought it never came to a `real’ solution I was still captivated by just how sweet and imaginative it all was. If it sounds like I’m having trouble putting my words together it is because I found the film quite hard to quantify – all I know is that I found the whole experience to be very sweet and enjoyable despite it not really amounting to much in the grand scheme of things. In this regard the film is a consistently imaginative fantasy film that is gently humorous and outright funny at times.
The cast are pretty good. I was originally a little put off by McGregor’s Alabama accent and it took me a minute to get past it, but other that his performance was very good and he helped create the film’s mood of wonder and whimsy. I think both McGregor and Finney needed to have that sort of accent – I don’t know why but it is a storyteller’s accent and it does help the material. Finney is good and manages to keep the spirit of McGregor’s character going despite not being surrounded by the images to support him. The support cast works well whether they be tall giants or well-known cameos from Buscemi, Carter and Devito. Lange, Crudup and Cotillard are all good but it is easily McGregor and Finney’s film.
Overall some will find the lack of structure and real substance to be a problem – after all, this is a film about tall tales and not everyone will be able to enjoy that. However this is a wonderfully light and fun bit of whimsy that is a lot better than I expected it to be. While it may not amount to a great deal more than that, it can still be enjoyed for what it is – a great fun story!