I just cried like a baby. I'm not talking about a manly cry where you grimace and a tear escapes from one eye, I'm talking about an actual cry. The sad thing is, I knew I was going to cry and there was nothing I could do to stop it. You see, I've just finished watching "Big Fish" and every single time I've watched this movie, and I've seen it dozens of times, I've cried at the end without exception.
I've written before about the effect this movie has on me. There is no other movie that extracts this response from me after multiple viewings. I'll swell up during a scene in "Field of Dreams", but that's it. With "Big Fish", it perfectly presses my buttons in a manner that leaves me a blubbering fool.
Critics will tell you Tim Burton has done better work, but I beg to differ. You'll also hear the great Albert Finney has been better, but I haven't seen it. IMDB.com users rank 174 films higher, but I find that hard to believe. "Big Fish" is the perfect storm of exceptional direction, an inspiring screenplay and actors who assume their roles perfectly. Still, I've seen a number of fantastic flicks, but none cause me to respond as emotionally as this one does. Why does "Big Fish" cause big tears?
It's that triple smack-down at the end. With Ed Bloom lying on his death bed, his non-believing and bitter son Will tells the final story. The story is in full Ed Bloom-style and fulfills the witch's prophecy. Everyone is there, everyone is happy and Will carries his father into the river where he becomes a big fish. This scene starts the tears flowing, Ed passes away but not before his son finally understands him and makes peace with him. Then, there's the funeral. This is where I really cry. The characters Ed spoke about in his elaborate stories are there, lending credence to what Will always assumed was hyperbole. Karl the Giant is there, Amos Calloway is there, Ping and Jing are there, Norther Winslow is there, they're all there and they're all sad to say goodbye to their pal Ed. Will realizing that his father had lived such adventures strikes a chord in me. Whereas the previous scene is Will buying into the stories to satisfy his dying father, this scene is Will realizing they were true all along. He now believes as I do. Just when I'm in full weep mode and can't take any more, the credits start to roll and I hear Eddie's voice starting "Man of the Hour". As I said, it's a triple smack-down and resistance is futile.
I'm not one to re-watch movies. Even movies I really liked rarely get a second viewing. I have a handful of films that I'll watch over and over again, but they're few and far between and lately I haven't had much of an urge to watch any of them. "Big Fish" is the great exception. It's as if the emotions it unleashes in me have created a chemical addiction to the movie. Even without the great ending, it's a fantastic movie that seems custom made for me, but throw in that ending and I need "Big Fish". Crying is great therapy and men don't try it nearly often enough. As I wrote before, only six things have made me cry in the past five years, and only one of those things is a fictional movie I can revisit over and over and over again.
And I will.