Finally, Tim Burton complete his “Big” Trilogy. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Big Fish, and now this. It’s about time.
“Big Eyes” is the true life story of Walter and Margaret Keane, painters who revolutionized the way commercial art was promoted and sold in the 1960s. Their famous works of young girls with very large eyes gained such popularity that eventually it became difficult to hide the lie that was hiding beneath the paint on each canvas. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz are tasked with playing this couple, and Tim Burton steps in to direct a tale that touches on truth, beauty, gender issues, and ownership in the world of art.
Now, it’s no secret I’m a sucker for a good true story, so you probably won’t be surprised that I absolutely loved this movie. Especially with the wonderfully enigmatic Tim Burton at the helm. Though he’s most famous for his more off the wall feel I think he makes his best films when he tempers them with reality like this one. It still has that Burton quirk and charm but lives in a place that is a bit more accessible to a wide audience. And it’s a perfect balance for this story especially, as it plays right into the themes of what it means to “commercialize” your art, and the ethics of pandering versus promoting. But here I think Burton walks that line beautifully and tells us this true story in a particularly satisfying way. Using the screen as his canvas to paint in much the same wide eyed, bright colored, kitschy way that Keane did in the 60s. He’s help of course by the fact that this really is an incredible true story with some real depth and meaning to it and by another standout performance by Amy Adams, who paints the multiple dimensions needed to tell the story of this amazing woman. Mother, wife, victim, hero, all come through with vibrancy and honor in a way that takes a talent I’m not sure most actresses possess, but Adams nails it. And she’s surrounded by a cast that all competently help the story along to its engaging and interesting finish.
Well all except one, and unfortunately it’s the other lead. Which brings us to the worst thing, Christoph Waltz. Yes, I know, that’s a tough one, but I just didn’t buy his performance for a second. I’m not sure if it’s bad casting, or just bad execution but when your role is that of a salesman huckster that could sell girl scouts their own thin mints back at a markup, you’d better be able to sell me as a viewer first. Because if I don’t believe your nonsense then it makes it even harder for me to believe that the people in the story would believe you either, which can make the whole thing feel a bit false.
Overall though, “Big Eyes” is still a wonderful movie. Thanks to the keen hand of Tim Burton, and a beautiful performance by Adams, Waltz’s shortcomings are offset enough for me to sign this review with an A-