The first, from Jason, was a predictable fish-catches-man story. The moral is, if a banana mysteriously lands in your fishing boat, don’t eat it. (Sadly, I think this was a largely self-produced film and I think it was titled “Fish” or something similar, and I can’t find it on YouTube to link it.)
The second, which more peripherally involves a big fish, is “The Beard” from the Kids in the Hall (naturally supplied by me).
Someday I will manage to work “No! The beard stays, YOU go!” into everyday conversation, and my life will then be complete.
But until then, it’s on to our feature presentation.
Big Fish opens with a wedding and ends with a funeral, which makes it only 2/5 as sentimental as a well-known Hugh Grant vehicle.
William Bloom, here marrying his cookie-cutter halo-wearing wife Josephine (who doesn’t have enough to do in the film to become any more interesting than Glinda the Good Witch), gets a bit ticked off about his father’s wedding toast, because it’s an obvious lie and he’s told the story only about a million times.
In this story, Ed Bloom misses his son’s birth wrestling an elusive (and big, who knew?) fish that has swallowed his wedding ring (when in fact he missed it because he was on a sales trip to Kansas City). William gets all huffy about little things like “making this wedding about you instead of me” and “I don’t even know you because every story you’ve ever told me about yourself is a lie”. What a whiner.
Well, the whole thing results in a bit of an estrangement between father and son until an elderly Ed falls ill and appears to be on his deathbed. William heads home, and Josephine, reasonably, drops everything to come with him without even complaining.
And William and his father embark on the long process of reconciling, despite the fact that it starts out kind of rocky, what with William not liking his father and all. Reasonable Josephine finds him charming. From this point, the majority of the film follows Ed’s stories as they piece together his life starting from boyhood and his tale about the town witch.
The upshot of the witch story in that she had a glass eye which, if you looked into it, would reveal to you the manner of your death. Child Ed daringly looked into it and gave a nonchalant, “Oh, so that’s how I go.” Of course, though he never tells anybody, he does continually insist on his deathbed that he’s not dying – this is not how he goes.
As his life unfolds, Ed goes through the typical fish tales. He saves his hometown from a carnivorous giant using only reason, and restless, arranges to run off to the big city with him.
On the way to the big city, he takes a “haunted” shortcut (because he can) and ends up in the Elysian city of Spectre, where the little girls fall in love with you and steal your shoes so you can’t leave. Although he promises to come back, Ed leaves despite his barefoot condition because he’s simply got too much to do in life – though he doesn’t know what. He and the giant eventually join a circus, the giant for the obvious reasons and Ed because of the picture below.
Yep, one glimpse of a girl (OK, her name is Sandra) and Ed sells himself into indentured servitude to ringleader Danny DeVito with the promise of one hint about her identity every month.
Oddly enough, DeVito is eventually revealed as a lycanthrope, but Ed’s kindness to him in his vicious canine state convinces DeVito to tell him everything he knows about Sandra and finally send him off to woo her.
Ed finds Sandra in her sorority house at Auburn, where armed only with a bouquet of her favored daffodils he immediately declares his undying love – to a young lady who is already engaged to be married, to his high-school nemesis no less.
But this does not deter our confabulistic hero, who plants every daffodil in the southeastern United States in front of her sorority house one night. This earns the hatred of her fiance, and his refusal to fight back when getting beaten on (at Sandra’s request) earns him her love. How sweet. (By the way, kudos to the filmmakers on utilizing the remarkable facial similarity between Alison Lohman and Jessica Lange.)
Naturally, once their troth is plighted Ed is immediately drafted into the Korean War, where he pulls off an impossible espionage mission and escapes with a pair of twinned-at-the-waist KSO entertainers. Once home, he embarks on his new life as a traveling salesman.
Outside of his Big Fish story, it turns out that the village of Spectre actually existed (as did all of his friends, most of whom we see at the eventual funeral) though the stories may be embellished, and during the incredibly long deathbed ordeal William visits the village and discovers that his father saved it from bankruptcy by buying it at auction and restoring it, while allowing the residents to remain in their homes. (Yeah, that part’s a bit weird.)
When William returns from the real Spectre, he learns that his father has had a stroke and rushes to the hospital to find him in a coma. He stays the night by his side, and at daybreak his father wakes.
“Tell me how it happens,” he says.
“How what happens?”
“How I go.”
“You mean what you saw in the Eye? I dunno that story, Dad, you never told it to me,” says William, but in the fading moments he begins to craft his own tale, where he and his father escape from the hospital and the son carries him past a parade of his friends to the river, where he releases his dad, and he turns into the great and uncatchable fish of his favorite tale.
Back in the hospital the father dies, having made a storyteller of his son.
It’s incredibly sentimental. (What was that that I said about the Hugh Grant vehicle? I take it back, every word!)