Review: Big Eyes
A weird and wonderful story from the 1950s is revealed through the lens of Tim Burton in Big Eyes, the true tale of sabotage and artistic license, literally.
Margaret (Amy Adams) is a painter and has recently left her husband alongside her daughter, seeking salvation in California in a world where women are looked down upon if not paired with a man. Trying to make money selling her paintings, she is wooed by fellow artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), and as suddenly as her life steered toward singledom, she is back with a husband and a father.
Keane is a bamboozler, a charmer, far more interested in making gaining success and fame than making change to the way society works. That is to say, Margaret is a great painter, but no one buys from a woman artist. Thus, Walter takes credit, and drama soon follows.
As this story about showmanship, marketing, and fanaticism unfolds, it becomes clear why Burton was attracted to this tale, and why he was right for the job. While there are some truly illogical moments that are too Burtonesque and take the viewer out of a riveting story that needs no embellishment, Burton keeps something serious underneath this wild façade.
It’s in the opening and casually touched upon throughout; this is about men who dominate and control and the subsequent struggles women have to endure. But what folly Burton brings to the screen!
That it’s a whimsical story and painted with Burton’s colourful palette and coated with such absurdist visuals and dialogue make it not some comedic lark. It’s a credit to Waltz, indefatigable with a look that says he completely believes every word this deceitful character is saying, that he gets us to see this as something lighter than it really is.
Adams and Waltz are both magnificent, grounding a story that were you not to live through it or know it true, wouldn’t seem the least bit believable. Fleeting moments of terror pop in and out of this funny yet unnerving account . It’s not always a smooth ride, but Burton’s film reveals itself a winning, redemptive story that finds the right, tricky, nearly wacky tone.