Big Eyes Review
Director Tim Burton takes a break from fantasy and returns to the biopic genre with Big Eyes, the story of artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and her struggle to make a name for herself as an artist in 1960’s America, when ‘women’s art’ was not highly regarded. After leaving her first oppressive husband behind, Margaret meets and marries Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a fellow artist. Though charming and helpful at first, Walter realises very quickly that he can use the superior artistic skills of his new wife (a penchant for big-eyed children staring out from the canvas) for financial gain, and passes painting after painting off to the public as his own work.
The real strength of the film is channelled perfectly by the two leads: Adams carries a believable air of a woman oppressed by her collapsing reality but ultimately smarter and more resourceful than the men constantly putting her down, whilst Waltz is (as usual) wonderfully enjoyable as the smarmy, self-serving patriarch. Krysten Ritter isn't given a lot to do in a rather replaceable role, but the star turn is delivered by Terence Stamp, who manages to give the funniest performance despite less than five whole minutes of screen time as a snobby art critic.
The plot itself – as a true story – does carry with it a certain degree of predictability as Walter’s lies begin to bring everything crashing down, but for the most part the likability of the two leads is an adequate distraction, even when the somewhat ropy dialogue and the saggy middle act threaten to undo the good work. Previous Burton collaborators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have pitched in with a script that is a little jarring in places but brings everything together in time for one of the most outrageous courthouse scenes ever put to film, a scene that in its true-to-life form would allegedly push the suspension of disbelief yet further.
Given the subject matter, the look of the film appears to have been very appropriately considered: presented in a canvas-like full frame, it bursts with pastel-like colours and reflects light like the well-polished curve of an antique sculpture. Burton has succeeded here in letting the vibrant pieces of his early work in animation drip into the palette whilst withholding the grim and Gothic tendencies for which he is infamous: you’ll find no psychologically tortured children or orphans here but the ones peering at you from the paintings.
While the inevitable predictability of a story based on real events still hangs over the film, Burton has managed to bring his unique style to the tale without leaving too many of his less infamous fingerprints all over it. Big Eyes is an intriguing, neatly-trimmed drama with two powerful players at the centre that conquers a wobbly script; it’s a real grown-up movie, something we've been waiting for Burton to achieve for a long time.