Tim Burton’s take on the Frankenstein story (well, one of his takes on it) is a metaphor for loneliness, a satire of the American suburbs, an oddball love story, and visually astonishing. Avon lady Peg Boggs (Dianne West) finds a pale man named Edward (Johnny Depp) in a strange black leather costume wandering around the grounds of an abandoned mansion during a sales call. He seems shell-shocked, and he has a grotesque set of scissors in place of hands. He does seem to be quite good at hedge-clipping though.
Peg takes him home. The neighbors begin to gossip, and their opinions of Edward turn dramatically throughout the movie as a suburban mob-mentality takes hold (which makes for some hilarious hedge-clipping and hair-dressing montages). When Peg’s angsty daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) shows up, she grows close to Edward, but must deal with his literal and metaphorical barriers to intimacy.
Depp’s performance is excellent, as are those over-the-top suburbanites. The real star is the art direction. Burton’s films always have a distinctive visual look, but I don’t think it ever works as well as in the clash of light and dark, suburban and gothic, that we see here. Danny Elfman's score ain't bad either, for that matter. This is a wonderful film, and I’m quite pleased that the Hugo voters chose it over the bombastic Governator-starring, ersatz Dick-adaptation Total Recall (even though I liked that movie too).