Which makes the scenes between the older Edward (Albert Finney) and his son Will (Billy Crudup) -- a journalist seeking just the facts from a father prone to spectacular fictions -- almost revelatory. For the first time, Burton seems comfortable walking around the real world; he doesn't frame the ordinary between quotation marks or populate suburbia with grotesqueries and freaks.
Many of Edward's tall tales are like bad jokes; after a while, it becomes clear he's told these stories not to impress his son but to keep himself interested in his own life.
Like all sons who see their fathers first as larger-than-life heroes only to watch them shrink into fragile old men, Will can no longer be entertained. He's a soon-to-be-father with no role model, save for the liar lying in bed. Will believes the truth will eradicate the distance between them, so he's almost delighted to find a hint that his father once had an affair with a woman in Spectre; at least, at last, something tangible about his old man. But even then, there's a truth and the truth, and rarely do they ever quite meet.
Burton, punctuating a man's life with outlandish and beautiful detours, is saying essentially: Life is the joy you remember, not the truths you can recite. And sometimes, death can provide a very happy ending.