Pros: Surprisingly well written, Lugosi is chilling
Cons: Pull the string!
Ed Wood does a lot of things so well it's bothersome, especially considering it's a typical Burton/Depp collaboration. This is actually probably Burton's best film and Depp's best performance for a few reasons. Ed Wood was essentially a bad director but he became famous and considered the worst director of all time for making bad films with great vigor and passion. There is a certain degree of argument in the film that Wood was misunderstood. It's his manner of filmmaking that caused him to only do one take, it almost tries to make sense of his terrible missteps as a filmmaker.
The plot is just that. Wood, played by Jonny Depp, is a godawful filmmaker who still resiliently overcomes hardships and never gets deterred. He plays the nicest guy in the world, someone so unassuming and affable you can't help but like him. The fact that he is a crossdresser is not something of humor, but it's a quirk that makes the film work wonderfully for some strange reason. This is, after all, the real story behind Ed Wood's filmmaking legacy, and his debut film was about a transvestite, Glen or Glenda. I've watched Wood's films and while they are filmed poor, they're far from the worst movies I've seen. I've seen plenty of vastly worse b-movies that offended my senses. The acting in Wood's films isn't horrendous, and even his worst film, Plan 9 From Outer Space, while terrible by today's standards, is still watchable. There are more curiosities to Woods' ideas that make him an entertaining subject of ridicule. And of course the fact that he did only a single take of just about every scene. This is probably in part to the fact that he had a limited budget and had 30+ scenes to shoot in a day, but who knows. If Wood had a lesson from Roger Corman on budget filmmaking, he may not be as celebrated as he is today.
The movie is more about Wood's relationship with washed up and drugged out Bela Lugosi, who while legendary is still dragged through the mud a bit in this picture. Lugosi seems to be headlining every one of Woods' films, it was using Lugosi that got him funding for some films, and Lugosi did not star, he was narrator or otherwise typically. The joke is that after Lugosi died, Wood had a reel of Lugosi picking a flower and used it in Plan 9, finding his wife's chiropractor looks just like Lugosi with his face covered, and so it was in that film, and it is in this one. Lugosi and Wood are portrayed as greatest friends in this films, and it's the sympathetic state of this dying legend that drives the emotional root of this movie. Wood was in love with his work and he was in love with Lugosi's acting, and the most touching part of the film is when Wood cries watching that final scene of Lugosi during the Plan 9 screening.
Depp looks nothing like Wood in build or facial features, but he fills the role great. Lugosi is certainly the acting highlight, but there's also Bill Murray as a fellow transvestite, who has little screen time but is charming. Vampira is also portrayed in a nice manner, I guess she predates Elvira but it's the same role. She is shown as being standoffish and hating Wood but filling the Plan 9 role after she gets fired from her television show. Such is show business. There are about three films shown being made, Glen or Glenda, Plan 9, and the second one I can't remember, but it stars Lugosi and features him fighting a rubber octopus with chillingly perfect acting despite the circumstances.
The plot is that Ed Wood gets funding for his first film, a transvestite piece. I actually watched Glen Or Glenda, and I'd probably respond the same way. The movie is like a plead for acceptance of the transvestite community. The movie doesn't capture the strangeness of this movie enough. While not popular, it is by far Woods' weirdest film. The funder's reception of it is screaming and anger (This guy's acting isn't the best by the way) and Ed Wood is essentially kicked out of Hollywood before he can start. He finds strange ways to fund his movies, getting the funding for Plan 9 by convincing his Landlord that a science fiction film will give his church the additional funds to make twelve movies, one about each apostle (Worst idea ever).
The love interests in the film are fine, but I hate Sarah Jessica Parker. I have to knock points off just for her being in the film. His second love interest is accepting of his transvestite lifestyle and so you can assume it's true love. The last 1/3 or so of the movie is what everybody wants to see, the making of Plan 9. The structure of the film is strange for two hours, but it works. The sets are convincing, as full black and white the director can take visual liberties, but it captures the era. Plan 9 and the fake sets in the film look nearly identical, granted cardboard cutouts of gravestones and plastic UFOs on strings aren't hard to imitate. A scene where Woods runs off and meets Orson Welles in a bar (The worst director of all time compares himself to the best is the joke) and there is a nice scene that discusses never compromising oneself for their artistic vision. Whether or not Wood was a great filmmaker, he made few compromises by choice.
If you like this film, go ahead and actually watch Woods' films. They are a lot to take in, but hugely entertaining. In between the terrible ideas there are spots of brilliance, and I think the fact that the movie captures that fact makes it much better than simply lampooning the guy. His work really isn't that bad so much as bizarre.