A Good film about a bad director

Ed Wood

Directed by Tim Burton

(US, 1994)

Review by Angus Luff


Ed Wood is a 1994 biographical comedy drama directed by Tim Burton and written by Rudolf Grey, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The film follows the real-life journey of aspiring and eccentric film director Edward D. Wood (Johnny Depp) as he struggles to make films that were judged to be some of the worst of all time. Ed sours his relationship with his girlfriend Dolores (Sarah Jessica Parker) during his filmmaking but ends up befriending a myriad of colourful people along the way who help Ed with his passion, including an aging and tormented Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), with whom he strikes an especially powerful friendship.

Ed Wood has been called one of the worst directors of all time, making some of the most infamously bad films, yet the biopic makes him such an easily identifiable, relatable and endearing person. This film takes a romanticized look at the actual events, and it gives Ed Wood and his gang of equally misunderstood and shamed people the respect and admiration they were always looking for. Every aspect of this film works together to deliver a complete, all-round, incredible achievement. Tim Burton’s early, restrained style fits right into this period piece about 1950s Hollywood. The black-and-white cinematography, the heightened dialogue and performances, the way the film moves elegantly from one scene to the next – all of it works and fits in place to deliver this excellent story about a group of people who to this day are still frowned upon.

The performances and casting are amazing, as the title character portrayed by Depp is very likeable, and other cast members are brought life in a story that doesn’t reflect reality but is still convincing in what it is trying to do. Martin Landou as Bela Lugosi is powerful, believable and moving. The relationship between Lugosi and Wood has an impactful dynamic that is at the core of the film’s heart. So much emotion and meaning comes from the characters that it may surprise viewers expecting a more passive or uninvested telling of the story. In this film, you are completely in Wood’s world, seeing how he might have seen it and how he wanted to see it, despite all the hardships and adversity he faced.

In all the biographical films about important historical figures and events, Ed Wood stands out for its strong purpose and vision. The point of the film is not to accurately tell the true story of the director but rather to take a romanticised look at the story with a more hopeful message than in reality. Ed Wood takes its subject matter and bends it into a film that inspires and reminds us of the communal significance that filmmaking can have. All these people, working on a shoe-string budget with little time and resources, with their own quirks, insecurities and fascinations, are all understood and cared for under the umbrella of filmmaking. This family of misfits and outcasts all get to be a part of a vision. The film is so unashamedly supportive and understanding of the under-heard and overlooked voices of the world who are trying their best to create something worthwhile, even when all odds are against them. This film takes a stand and champions the man who was criticized and shamed because he pursued what he was passionate about.

A film as empathetic and loving as this deserves recognition and praise, as it is important to have a film like this in a world filled with so much nihilism and general contempt toward those who simply want to express themselves. This is a film that speaks for itself and has so many obviously great qualities that I implore everyone reading to watch it and experience those qualities for themselves. The film itself will have an easier time winning you over than I ever will.


Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.


Running time: 2 hours 7 mins

Available on Disney+

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