by Anthony Zangrillo
As with all Tim Burton’s movies, Big Eyes fails to disappoint. Although it would seem an understated Tim Burton movie compared to Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Hollow that have dark, gothic undertones, Big Eyes nevertheless contains a certain dark and outlandish signature Burton style.
The plot of the movie is quite straightforward. Based on a true story, it is about artist Margaret Keane whose husband Walter Keane claimed credit for her paintings until she sued him. Burton effortlessly depicts 1950s America – a land no place for independent women. He portrays the sexism that permeated not only the society of that period but also in the art industry as Margaret is forced to accept her husband’s con because no one would take her seriously as an artist. When she seeks religious consultation, she is quickly reminded that she must obey her husband, clearly one of the most infuriating moments in the movie. The slowly disintegrating marriage is quite visible, with utter cruelty masked by overly comedic instances, a particular forte of Burton.
The casting was brilliant with leading actors Amy Adams (as Margaret Keane) and Christoph Waltz (as Walter Keane) showcasing spectacular acting. Amy Adams beautifully portrays the woman scorned as the audience can clearly view the psychological torment she suffers. But as they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Adam’s character defying society is a feminist’s answer to such blatant sexism and abuse. Moreover, Christoph Waltz played the perfect con artist, as he deftly dupes Margaret by showing false sincerity. He seems perfectly charming in the beginning but his true character is revealed as he grows increasingly aggressive and deceitful. Many of Burton’s films are based on characters that are outcasts. Walter is an outsider who feels he can only gain acceptance in the art industry by resorting to cheating and lying. The movie was clearly led by Adams and Waltz. Meanwhile, the supporting characters such as Krysten Ritter and Danny Huston were mainly on the fringes. Ritter plays a small role as Margaret’s supportive friend while Danny Huston is a needless narrator of the film. Terence Stamp cameos as an art critic who seems to hate art.
Perhaps my only complaint from the film is that there is a lack of portrayal of the character’s thoughts and inner workings. Why Margaret Keane wished to paint children with unnaturally big eyes remains a mystery despite her explanation that “eyes are windows to the soul”. Nonetheless, Big Eyes is clearly one of Burton’s best movies in a long time with brilliant acting as always from Adams and Waltz.