Big Eyes

Big Eyes (2014)

dir. Tim Burton

Stranger than fiction biopic about Margaret Keane, the artist behind the saucer-eyed, sad child paintings.  Amy Adams portrays Keane with a quiet strength as she struggles to assert her identity.  It’s fun to see the paintings that clearly informed director Burton’s classic style.  Christoph Waltz is a little too broadly comic as Walter Keane, but spices up the occasionally bland proceedings.

When we first meet Margaret she is packing up and leaving with her daughter. There is no real hint as to why she is leaving.  Margaret and her daughter settle down in San Francisco, and Margaret begins the challenging life of a single mother in 1950’s America.  Some critics have said the movie has a feminist message.  I would disagree with that.  The film is more about her asserting her identity.  When looked at in context, it becomes a political message.  Margaret is speaks softly and acts polite.  She struggles to establish herself as an artist partly because of her introverted nature.

Big Eyes lightly touches on the art vs. commerce debate.  For a moment you start to think how unrealistic the image of the tortured artist is.  Maybe the packaging is as important as the content.  The film doesn’t dwell on the question for very long.  It doesn’t even make a judgement on Margaret’s art.  Walter is the showman who, by lying, makes Margaret’s work famous.  His, her, rise to fame is in conjunction with this mass commercialization of art.  As with Margaret’s art, there isn’t a strong stance made on whether it’s a negative development or not.  I mention these other issues in the film because Margaret’s journey isn’t all that compelling.

There are a few moments of surrealism, the scene in the grocery store, and darkness, Walter’s drunken rages, that stand out from the candy-colored boredom.  The final scene in the courtroom is exciting because Waltz gets to ham it up.  Mainly, the film is too long and doesn’t seem all that interested in its protagonist.

Recommend: Not so much.  Amy Adam and Christoph Waltz give good, but conflicting, performances.  The movie is light and fluffy to its detriment.

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