Tim Burton is one of the most visually distinctive auteurs in the history of film. From Edward Scissorhands to Corpse Bride, his visual style is full of over-the-top juxtaposition of color and pattern, and his storytelling is dark, yet whimsical. Such is the case with Beetlejuice, Burton’s second attempt at directing (after Pee-wee’s Big Adventure).
Michael Keaton is a tour de force in the titular role, while Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are serviceable as a recently-deceased couple. For me, however, Winona Ryder steals the show, as always.
The film’s plot is good, albeit rather conventional. The deceased couple is shocked to find out they are dead, and even more upset when a new family moves into their house. They attempt to scare the new residents out, but when they fail, the owners perform a séance in an attempt to rid the house of ghosts. Lydia, the oddest of the new tenants, forms a relationship with the ghoulish Adam and Barbara.
When they fall victim to her parents’ séance, Lydia employs the help of Betelgeuse, who ends up being more of a nuisance than anything, but in typical movie fashion, the good guys win, and Adam and Barbara “live” happily ever after with Lydia by their side.
Beetlejuice’s visual aesthetic is much more interesting than the plot. Burton mixes kitschy suburban decorum with characters straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s wet dreams. Lydia’s gothic style clashes with her parents’ upper-middle class drab dressings while matching the house’s decrepit demeanor. Betelgeuse himself is simultaneously scary and stylish. Frankly, it looks like a Tim Burton movie, and if you’ve ever seen any of his other films, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Okay, let’s get to the elephant in the room. My number one celebrity crush of all time is Winona Ryder, and it started as a kid, probably because of her performance in Beetlejuice. She’s dark, determined, and defiantly sexy. My schoolboy crush was on Lydia, but Girl, Interrupted turned it into a full-on Winona Ryder obsession. Is she great in Mr. Deeds? Not really, considering it’s a relatively poor movie (although, for some reason, I enjoy most of it). I believe Lydia is the main protagonist in Beetlejuice, and it’s all thanks to Ryder’s performance majeure.
Beetlejuice takes me back to a time when I hadn’t yet discovered various dark countercultures like emo and goth. The bleak imagery of the film captured my imagination as a child, and it still does thirty years after its release. It’s a solid watch, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder may steal the show, but Winona stole my heart.
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton
Beetlejuice Official Synopsis:
After Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck haunting their country residence, unable to leave the house. When the unbearable Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones) and teen daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) buy the home, the Maitlands attempt to scare them away without success. Their efforts attract Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a rambunctious spirit whose “help” quickly becomes dangerous for the Maitlands and innocent Lydia.
Beetlejuice was released to theaters on March 30, 1988
Categories: Movie Anniversaries