Review: 'Big Eyes'


[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"]Tim Burton loves bullshitters. From the eponymous Ed Wood and Edward Bloom in Big Fish to Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and now Walter Keane in Big Eyes, he can't resist a charlatan. Unfortunately, Keane's particular brand of duplicity would be better suited to a long-form magazine article, not a feature film. The protagonist of Big Eyes is actually Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a divorcee-slash-painter who meets Walter (Christoph Waltz) at a outdoor market in 1960s San Francisco. Walter proves charming and adept at providing for her young daughter, so she accepts his hasty marriage proposal without much consideration. He's also a painter, albeit not a very successful one; most of his time is spent convincing galleries to show their work. When their first painting sold isn't a Walter but a Margaret, he takes all of the credit and begins down a spiral that will lead to untold riches and deep betrayal. The movie's title comes from Margaret's painting style; she paints exclusively children with very large, sad eyes.

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It's rejected with vigor by the critical community (consisting of Jason Schwartzman as a gallery owner and Terence Stamp as a New York Times art critic) but beloved by the masses, which means Walter gets all the money but none of the praise. He has the Beach Boys over for drinks but can't buy a good review; meanwhile, Margaret has to hide her studio from the world so that their secret is never exposed. Big Eyes touches on intriguing topics: women's rights, the curious subjectivity of art criticism, the mass appeal of schlock. But with a strong emphasis on "touch"; it never gives more than a cursory glance to anything beyond its straightforward narrative. Every interesting nook or cranny gets a quick peek, and then it's onto the next plot point. Fortunately, both leads are quite capable. Waltz curiously puts forth no effort in hiding his accent but sparkles with his skeevy charms; he's tremendous at exuding a lust for power and control. It seems to ooze from his pores and proves the perfect supplement to Walter's loud gladhanding. He's rarely outwardly menacing, only selfish, but that can be just as scary when his livelihood is on the line. Meanwhile, Adams does her best inhabiting yet another blandly pleasant, doe-eyed (pun intended) female character who can't stay away from domineering companions. As an actress, Adams has a quiet courage that inspires much-needed sympathy, but there's never any sense that Burton or his screenwriters are speaking for women everywhere who suffer at the hands of their overbearing spouses. Her eventual triumph over Walter's lies is staged as matter-of-fact, not an uplifting battle cry for the disenfranchised. Burton is telling one story, not speaking for an entire gender, and this limits how good Adams can really be. In addition, every other character is as one-note as it gets. Krysten Ritter is The Friend, Danny Huston is The Reporter, Madeleine Arthur is The Judgmental Child. They exist because they must; the story cannot press on without them. Whoever they were based on may be interesting and fully formed, but Big Eyes has no time for their contributions. And short of an unnervingly idyllic depiction of suburbia and one scene where Margaret imagines everyone around her literally having big eyes (cue groan) there's not much of the Tim Burton panache that we've come to expect. This isn't a bad thing; his style has become a punchline after years of cash-printing Disney adaptations. But Big Eyes doesn't have the magical flair of, say, Big Fish, the only Burton movie of the last 15 years that had both pizzazz and heart. Instead, it's a very workmanlike creation; this happened, then this happened, then this happened. It almost feels like Burton had time in his schedule and screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who also wrote the aforementioned Big Fish) got him to squeeze in their latest. From a visual standpoint, anyone could've directed this movie. And from a story standpoint, it probably shouldn't exist at all. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"] [vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"][mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]Details:[/mk_fancy_title] [mk_custom_list style="48" icon_color="#00c8d7" margin_bottom="30" align="none"]

  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
  • Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Release date: December 25, 2014

[/mk_custom_list] [mk_fancy_title tag_name="h2" style="true" color="#393836" size="14" font_weight="inhert" margin_top="0" margin_bottom="18" font_family="none" align="left"]More reviews from this author:[/mk_fancy_title] [mk_custom_list style="48" icon_color="#00c8d7" margin_bottom="30" align="none"]