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Big Eyes

  • 2014
  • PG-13
  • 105min
  • 72%
  • 7 / 10

Between the outset of the 1950s and the onset 1960s, artist Walter Keane gains wide popularity and acclaim by taking credit for his wife Margaret Keane’s art. Finding no shred of courage to stand up against her husband, Margaret maintains her silence. However, when their marriage reaches its end, Margaret must fight for the truth and regain what is rightfully hers.

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Prior to the film’s release, Margaret Keane’s paintings had increased in sales, with small paintings priced at $8,500 per piece. Director Tim Burton is no stranger to this. In fact, the American filmmaker is a regular patron of the artist and owns a vast collection of her art. In the 1990s, Burton commissioned Keane to paint his romantic partner at the time, Lisa Marie. He also formally asked the famed artist to paint another former partner, Helena Bonham Carter, as well as his deceased Chihuahua.

The film’s lead star, Amy Adams, who plays Margaret Keane, liked the script but initially declined the offer to be cast as Kean because her character did not resemble a woman with a strong sense of self-esteem. However, her stint on American Hustle (2013) put things into perspective. She formed a new set of beliefs surrounding the painter. Eventually, the actress was enchanted by Keane’s reserved disposition. The artist’s relationship with her mother also won Adam’s heart.

To get in character, Adams personally approached the real-life Margaret Keane to have a dialogue with her. At the time, the artist was already in her late 80s. According to Adams, the painter could not believe that her life would be turned into a film.

Big Eyes movie review

Tim Burton's Big Eyes is a biopic about popular American artist Margaret Keane. The film not only tackles her divisive work but also the Keanes' bizarre marriage.

Christoph Waltz teetering between charming and domineering brings Walter Keane to life. A better part of his performance is when Walter begins to sell Margaret's paintings. Waltz somehow makes Walter's desperate and pathetic ways endearing. But it is Amy Adams' timid and deferential portrayal of Margaret Keane that keeps the film on track. It is in Amy's expressions and slight movements that helps viewers understand Margaret.

Their performances were not able to hide the film's derailing plot though. As the film is heightening its comedic tone, it makes an abrupt turn to the dark aspects of Keane's marriage. It is awkward to see the plot collapse on itself when it tries to address psychological trauma. Such an example is the couple's climactic confrontation becoming too melodramatic. Waltz' performance is more reminiscent of a fairytale villain than an abusive husband. Addressing such a topic is noble, but the viewers are suddenly left with a lot of questions. Other plot devices that leave more questions than answers is the narrator. Actor Danny Houston appears on irregular intervals to 'narrate' the story. Yet, his appearance neither brings new information nor brings the story forward.

The film is marred by an uneven approach. First, the film wants to portray the Keanes in a farce, populating the scenes with larger-than-life characters. Then, in an abrupt turn, examines the Keanes by probing into the psychology of their toxic relationship. It is a theme of Burton's films to make light of something that is dark, tragic or taboo. However, the underlying themes of Big Eyes can not service both approaches, and the story suffers for it. The film is still worth watching as it is a thought-provoking, insightful dramatization on the subject of art, artists, and authorship.

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about the movie

Big Eyes (2014) is a biographical drama film directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay penned by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It chronicles the life of American artist Margaret Keane and stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.