ByJames Porter, writer at
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James Porter

Tim Burton directs this colorful true story of how Margaret Keane was forced into painting pictures by her husband, Walter Keane, who would sell them to the masses under his name.

In the late 1950's and early 60's, Margaret and Walter Keane make a fortune from selling paintings of sorrowful children with large and prominent eyes. Margaret painted them, Walter sold them, but no one else knew that Margaret was the real artist. The paintings became a cult sensation yet Margaret received none of the creative credit.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz star as Margaret and Walter Keane, two people who fall madly in love over their passion for art but later begin to question each other about what's more important, the art or the money?

Adams plays her part beautifully, a timid and naive woman who'll do just about anything her husband tells her to do. She isn't quite Oscar worthy here and its not her best role by far but it was nice to see the actress return to a more innocent role. Christoph Waltz on the other hand hams it up as Walter Keane, charming in the first half but growing evermore manipulative and scheming as the film progresses, by the final act his character is almost a fairytale villain. The contrast between the two performances clashed too often, with Adams toning it down and Waltz overacting, the two felt like they were in very different films.

Burton paints a beautiful picture here from the streets of San Francisco to the beaches of Hawaii, the film is always vibrant and attractive. What Burton doesn't do such a good job with is establishing his characters, the story is executed very well but little do we get to know about the people the story is actually about.

Burton flirts with deeper themes, the status of married women in the late 50's, abuse in marriage, art criticism, but features the theme of artistic jealousy more than any other. I feel the film could have benefited from a more mature script that may have delved into these matters more. There a few lines Adams' delivers that tell us her paintings wouldn't have been as successful if she sold them herself because she's a woman and that was most likely true, but Burton doesn't contextualize that message enough.

Despite this being a true story, it still had a very fairy tale like aspect to it, which is what I imagine drew Burton to the project. A shy and innocent woman held almost captive by a manipulative and wicked man. This aspect of the film became much more clear as the film went on, with Walter secluding his wife to a small room with little sunlight so she can paint half a dozen pictures every day.

Margaret, a single mother and recent divorcee is very aware of her small status in the society in which she lives and at first marries Walter so she can retain the custody of her child.

I found "Big Eyes" very interesting for a while but then the drama started to build and build until the film became seemingly silly in the second half. Most of which is shown on screen did actually happen but Burton doesn't develop the characters enough for me to get invested into the absurd story.

Big Eyes is Burton's best live action film for a long time but its not quite a great film.


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