Johnny Deep is "Worst Director Of All Time" Edward D. Wood Jr. in this stylish Tim Burton biopic/hommage which looks at the man's rise to... making Plan 9 From Outer Space, his biggest and "best" movie, and his friendship with ageing icon Bela Lugosi.
How much of the movie is based on facts is hard to say, parts of it are clearly anecdotal, others feel put on for the sake of the narrative or character development. Did Ed Wood really help Bela Lugosi check into rehab? Possibly. Did he ever bump into Orson Welles in a bar and have a deep conversation with him? Probably not. It doesn't matter though, this isn't so much about presenting an accurate depiction of Wood's personal life as it is celebrating the guy's passionate drive for what he does (or at least tries to do) and his quirky-ass career. Was he deluded? Perhaps. His films were certainly not well made. But this is a guy who went through hell trying to make his trashy sci-fi monster movies happen and, as hard as it was, he got them done!
You gotta love the guy.
Johnny Depp plays Wood kinda like a cartoon, reflecting the man's naive optimism through a happy-go-lucky grin and higher pitched voice. This interpretation shouldn't work but it does: Depp looks nothing like Ed Wood so instead opts for pure characterization, prioritizing bringing out the spirit of the man rather than settling for a bland impression. Martin Landau's Oscar-winning performance as Lugosi is brilliant, making you feel deeply for the character no matter how intimidating, sinister or eccentric he may seem. Add to that a fantastic supporting cast playing a great bunch of weirdos: Lisa Marie (Vampira), Jeffrey Jones (Criswell), Bill Murray (Bunny Breckinridge), Sarah Jessica Parker (Dolores Fuller), Patricia Arquette (Kathy O'Hara) and even Vincent D'Onofrio pops up as the most convincing Orson Welles since... the actual Orson Welles.
The film follows Ed Wood's move from abysmal playwright to abysmal filmmaker as he makes Glen Or Glenda (originally "I Changed My Sex!" lol), Bride Of The Monster (originally "Bride Of The Atom") and finally, his opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space (originally "Grave Robbers From Outer Space"). It's a lot of fun to see these cult classics re-interpreted by Tim Burton, plus you really get a feeling for the awkward mess you'd find on the sets and, ironically, the team-spirit within the cast and crew, sticking together no matter what. The film explores how filmmaking can turn you into an outsider and how difficult it can be to just get some people together and tell a fun story for not much money. Wood is rejected and ridiculed constantly but there's no stopping him.
Overall, Ed Wood is one of Burton's best and stands out from anything he's done before as his most "normal" film. He has fun with it but doesn't hammer in his own style for the hell of it, which is refreshing. This is a very funny, very sweet, touching movie and whether you know Ed Wood's classics or not, chances are you'll have a ball.
A cult hit and a must.