In Tim Burton’s latest film, he abandons his famous style of darkness and abnormal characters (usually played by Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter) to present a somewhat comedic biopic on painter Margaret Keane and her fraudulent artist husband Walter. It’s a pleasant little film with star power appeal. Easily one of Burton’s most accessible works, “Big Eyes” plays it safe by appealing to wider audiences and keeping the lead actors within their normal ranges; there are no surprises to this story of a woman living under the thumb of her lying, cocky husband.
After fleeing with her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye/Madeleine Arthur) from her husband, Margaret (Amy Adams) struggles to make a living as a single mother in the 1950s. When working as a portrait artist, she meets Walter (Christoph Waltz), a man selling Parisian street paintings nearby, and they marry quickly. When both of their paintings are on display at Banducci’s (Jon Polito) club, a misunderstanding causes Walter to sell one of Margaret’s paintings of a sad, big-eyed child as his own art. He continues the masquerade, high on an undeserved success, and provides interviews with a local journalist (Danny Huston) for better promotion. Margaret struggles with the dishonesty of the success and the lack of recognition but continues to paint.
A surprisingly colorful film of soft, lively pastels, “Big Eyes” strays from auteur Burton’s dark style. It’s active, fresh, and actually based in reality. Some scenic shots look almost painted, filmed by the very talented Bruno Delbonnel, known especially for his colorful films, such as “Across the Universe” and Oscar-nominated films “Amelie” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
Unlike many of his other films of huge, visionary sets and special effects, such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Big Eyes” is a mostly straightforward biopic, closer to his films “Big Fish” or “Ed Wood,” in which performances make the movie. Christoph Waltz plays the smarmy, temperamental liar so well and Amy Adams once again plays innocent and sweet, very likeable. The pair meets the standards audiences have come to expect of them.
“Big Eyes” is a safe choice for a family get together, though younger children will definitely be bored (I’d suggest 10+). Walter is easy to despise and Margaret is easy to pity, making the film an easy concept for anyone. The supporting roles of Jason Schwartzman as a gallery owner and Terence Stamp as an art critic, though, seem to suggest a subplot about the quality of the “Big Eyes” paintings but are wasted, coming off as mostly cynical. “Big Eyes” could have been so much more, but it’s still enjoyable for what it is.
Rating for “Big Eyes:” B+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Big Eyes” is playing at a few theatres in Columbus, including AMC Lennox, Easton, Grove City, and Dublin. For showtimes, click here.