I’ve been a long time fan of Tim Burton (as with so many others). Is he always a perfect director? No but he is largely talented and knows how to expertly craft a film. Some people felt he has fallen from grace with his last couple of films but I personally disagree even if I do feel he’s becoming a bit too predictable with his projects. His latest feature “Big Eyes” is a nice change of pace for Burton. Refreshingly small and personal, “Big Eyes” is funny, dramatic and has hints and shades of Burton’s usual wackiness. Is this film quite as good as it wants to be? No not quite but “Big Eyes” is distinctly watchable.
After leaving her Husband, a single mother named Margaret tries to use her painting skills to make money and ends meet. Meeting up with a delightfully romantic painter named Walter Keene, it’s not long before the two marry each other. Together they try to sell their paintings, to almost no success. After a fight in a bar between Walter and the bar owner, people start to come in droves to see the paintings done by Keene. However people are only interested in the paintings done by Margaret. Seizing the opportunity to make some money and claim fame, Walter proclaims all the artwork was done by him. It isn’t long before Margaret enters the legal world to reclaim the credit her husband stole.
While this sounds like a pretty straight forward drama, and in some ways it is, but Tim Burton is able to give this a completely fresh feel from other contemporaries involving similar subject matters. Burton’s sense of style is able to shine through on almost every frame. Despite being a dramatic piece based on a true story you always see his voice shine through but it’s never abrasive like it is some of his other works. The sheer brilliance of this picture is how Burton is able to gracefully weave through both comedy and drama. One moment you’ll be laughing the next you’re deeply intrinsically involved in what’s going on, on screen.
Some of the story is just sheer bonkers that it’s important to keep in mind that this is based off true events and most of what is depicted (at least from my little research) seems to be fairly accurate. It’s important to keep that mind because the last court room drama scene feels so “out there” and over the top that you’ll be thinking no way this can happen in a court room. But, apparently it can (and I won’t spoil what that is for people whom don’t know the story).
“Big Eyes” despite some of its strangeness the movie attempts to ask some important questions. What is a women’s worth in the art world? Is a critic someone who can’t create art? What role does commercial success play into whether or not something is artistically of merit? “Big Eyes” doesn’t quite have the strength to look deep into these questions and remains very much at the surface level; but it never the less begs some important questions that are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1950s and 1960s.
The casting is certainly a change of pace for Burton. Casting a film for Tim Burton movies is as predictable as they come, you know it’s going to have both Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter. But shockingly they are nowhere to be found here. Instead in the two leads are Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. Amy Adams plays Margaret Keene. Unconfident but wickedly talented, Adams downplays a strong sense of self (a trait many Adams characters have) instead lets that bridle confidence simmer underneath until she is finally ready to exploit it.
Christoph Waltz plays her husband, the man who would claim credit for her paintings for the rest of her life. A bit eccentric and larger than life, this is honestly a role I could see Johnny Depp excelling at. Regardless, Waltz is wonderful in the role. Perfectly sleazy, Waltz chews the scenery and does however go over the top a few too many times. Granted he could be playing his character true to life but it does get a tad annoying from time to time but otherwise a very fine performance.
The final scene lacks the gravitas you want it to have. Instead of a profound statement the scene is charmingly entertaining. Perhaps that’s all it was going for to begin with, but I felt that there was something more the filmmakers could have reached. Is the movie one of Burton’s best? No, but it’s sure is refreshing for Burton to tackle a smaller and personal project rather than a big bombastic production that we’re use to seeing from him.