Big Eyes (2014)

Big Eyes (2014)
  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter


A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.


  • This film is not recommended.

    Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is a bad film about bad painters making bad art. It’s as dreadful as the artwork on view. The film declaims the “true” life story of Margaret Keane, but just how true is true? It purports to tell the story of the artist whose paintings of miserable urchins became the rage back in the sixties. Sadly, just like the unhappy waifs in the paintings, Big Eyes is a sad incomprehensible wreck of a film. (As a teenager, I do remember seeing these prints at a nearby Woolworth and thinking, “Who would want these paintings anyway?”) Apparently, everyone did, including Natalie Wood, Jerry Lewis and Joan Crawford. That part may be quite true, but some other facts are pure artistic license.

    The film tries to spin the fad into international glory, over-exaggerating the importance of this works of art and the business of marketing art to the masses ala Warhol. There could be an interesting enough backstory about Ms. Keane’s life and her sudden wealth, but the mixed-up screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski never does her life any justice as it wavers between farce and drama. The essence of this “based on a true story” shows the artist too easily giving into her incorrigible manager/husband who claimed to be the sole creator of her schlock art. Ms. Keane’s reasons for the anonymity are never fully explained. The script hints at her low self-esteem issues and the societal backlash against female artists at the time, although the latter argument is weak, with other artists like O’Keefe, Frankenthaler, and Krasner achieving fame and fortune back then. The film tends to skim over the more relevant facts of her life.

    Burton does succeed, at least, visually with the look of the film from Colleen Atwood’s costumes and production design by Rich Heinrich which captures the period details handsomely. Character-wise, the film is a muddle with the tone of the film caroming from cheeky melodrama to absurd comedy, as in a scene involving a harsh (but accurate) critic and a courtroom scene that is too absurd to be believed. Amy Adams does invest some depth into her ill-defined character, but Christoph Waltz is far too slick and charmless as her duplicitous and scheming spouse.

    Big Eyes is a big bad disappointment. GRADE: C

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  • Once upon a time, there was the strange case of Margaret Keane, whose paintings of saucer-eyes waifs were passed off by her husband Walter as his own. She spent hours and hours and hours in her studio, churning out painting after painting whilst her husband counted their growing fortune.

    Tim Burton’s wildly uneven stab at a “woman’s picture” begins in the soft pastels of North California in 1958. Margaret (Amy Adams) has walked out on her first husband and started her new life as a single mother in North Beach, San Francisco. She meets Walter (Christoph Waltz) at an outdoor art fair – he praises her talent (“You undervalue yourself.”), she’s impressed with his tales of living in Paris, where he studied art and painted on the Left Bank. They have a whirlwind courtship, though the film makes it clear that the marriage for Margaret is a source of security and a way to keep her ex-husband from gaining custody of their daughter.

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  • Quickie Review:

    In an era where it was difficult for women to be independent, Margaret (Amy Adams) struggles to make an impact with her art. She falls for another charismatic painter, Walter (Christoph Waltz) who brings some stability into her life. However, all is changed when Walter starts taking credit for the big eye art while forcing Margaret to endlessly paint on his behalf. Based on a true story, Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s stylistically most reserved movie in a long time. However, that works in the movie’s favour particularly thanks to the wonderful performances by the two leads. A worthwhile watch about a strong woman facing the hardships of marital abuse.

    Full Review:

    Over the past decade, I’ve gotten tired of Tim Burton movies. It seemed liked he needed to always do the following three things on his filmmaking checklist: cast Johnny Depp, cast Helena Bonham Carter, and create a crazy looking world. His movies started to prioritise style over substance. Fortunately, he seemed to have used a different checklist while directing Big Eyes.

    First of all Burton casted Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz who were perfect in their roles. Both of the characters are the polar opposites of each other. Margaret is shy and naïve while Walter is more outgoing and charismatic. Adams gives a beautifully nuanced performance, showing her character’s emotion with subtle expressions. Conversely, Waltz is more animated with his body language, able to fool even the audience of his character’s insecurities as an artist. Secondly, Burton really dials back on his typical visual style. There are hints of it during some landscape shots, and in some scenes where Margaret is distressed. Yet never is the style used to invoke reaction due to its strangeness, but rather it is used to progress the story and visualise the character’s emotional state.

    As much as I liked the movie there is one problem I had with the film. I felt that the movie slows down a bit in the middle when it starts to concentrate on the business aspect of the art. This part could perhaps have been shortened to further utilise the supporting cast. There seemed to have been other people involved in the real story that may have been important, but their relationships with the lead characters is never fully developed. Additionally, there is one possible issue that others may have that I didn’t particularly mind. Some of the audience may think that Waltz may be too over the top at times. Personally I thought that’s how the character is defined in the film so it was good fit. As long as you are aware of that you might leave with an opinion similar to mine.

    Overall, this was a really good film thanks to the great performances of the actors. Anyone who is concerned about overcrowded visual Burton-isms can rest easy. I hope he continues to direct more films like this one.

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  • Tim Burton’s signature gothic, often fantastical style has never particularly appealed to me. I haven’t been sold by his reimagining of classic films, which in itself goes against my opinion on adaptations. However it’s difficult not to appreciate some of his classics, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Big Fish etc. His latest film Big Eyes, a biopic about artist Margaret Keane, does away with many of the Burtonesque themes, with a cheerful opening act that thinly veils a story of duplicity and suppression.

    In the mid-1950s, Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) runs away from her husband, taking her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye) and her paintings with her to San Francisco. Her work is unlike any other, often portraying young children with over sized eyes. Whilst selling her paintings for loose change at an outdoor market, she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a fellow artist, who takes great interest in her work. The two hit it off, getting married shortly after. Walter helps Margaret get her art recognised, although he starts to take credit for it, believing that nobody would be interested in paintings from female artists. Soon the Keane ‘big eyes’ paintings grow into an empire, but the real artist is being hidden from the world.

    Whilst Big Eyes has a completely different style to most of Burton’s other films, he doesn’t hold back from injecting stylistic choices all over the place. For instance, there are sections of the film that are shown on a TV, and these appear to have been shot with a fish-eye lens, not only to mimic the curved front of CRT televisions but also to draw the centre of the screen closer to the audience in quite a confronting way.

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  • Movie Name : BIG EYES
    Genre : Biography / Drama
    Rating : Good 3.5 /5

    Big Eyes had cult status written all over it. It is definitely worth watching thanks to the stupendous performances by Amy Adams and Christopher Waltz, superb direction and astounding background score.

    Big Eyes tells an interesting rags-to-riches story about painter Margaret Keane who struggled to keep her passion alive and legal battle she had to face with her own husband to claim right over her paintings.

    Tim Burton needs no introduction to the world of cinema. The legendary director has surprised us each time with his devotion towards movies from the Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Big Fish to name few. His movies will lure you and keep you glued to the screen with his impeccable direction and storytelling.The screenplay is good but not great. Dialogues are fine. Art direction and cinematography is nice. Icing on the cake is the applauding performances by Amy Adams and especially Christopher Waltz. Watch for him in the court scene. He will surely bring down the house with his funny act.

    Overall – so many reason to watch this film. Nice direction, astounding performances and tight script.

    – Ketan

  • “All these copies… you’re like Warhol!
    Nah, Warhol’s like me. That fruit-fly stole my act! ”

    Tim Burton is known for the surreal-like film “Edward Scissorhands” and other strange curiosities such as “Beetlejuice” and “Mars Attack!”. This time he follows a more realistic path with this biographical film “Big Eyes” about the sad life of Margaret Keane. This artist from the early 60s is responsible for countless families to have several paintings (or copies) hanging in their house, with on it a sad child with a pair of unreal looking big eyes (usually with a tear). At first glance, this was just tacky “Holly Hobbie” -like teen art. But the truth is astonishing and brilliant at the same time. All the paintings of Margaret Keane were allegedly created by her husband Walter, who’s a smooth talker but wasn’t as smooth with a brush. That’s the baffling part of the whole story. The brilliant part is how this show-off managed to set up the merchandising and turned this “teen room portraits” into a commercial success. In terms of marketing, he was a forerunner. But at the same time he turned his wife into a individual without any identity or personality. A housewife trapped in a dusty attic where she produces paintings like a conveyor belt and signed them with the surname of her husband. Eventually, you may consider this as the most subtle art theft of all time.

    The participation of Amy “American Hustle” Adams as the shy, introverted and somewhat naive Margaret and Christoph “Django Unchained” Waltz as the cunning charmer Walter Keane, is a successful combination. Both the spirit of the 50s and 60s as the scenery is conveyed brilliantly :the typical neighborhoods with their close-cropped lawns, the beautiful vintage cars, the fashion of those days and also the naivety in a sterile and perfect looking family-society. Fortunately for Walter the word “emancipation” hadn’t been invented yet and women at the time were neatly classified in the “home-garden-kitchen tool” section. Would he perform this stunt in modern times, he probably would be the one walking around with unreal big eyes (blue that is). Amy Adams is perfect for this role as the fragile and submissive wife (who radiates an “Marilyn Monroe” aura at times) but is also more emancipated than one would think. At that time it wasn’t so obvious for a woman to leave her husband. Schultz waltzed through the film like a big smiling Dick Van Dyke. Being a shrewd businessman he builds an empire by abusing his wife’s talent.

    It’s the performances that make it still a pleasure to watch this film. For the rest is this story about deception and (essentially) abuse, rather unimpressive. I have no doubt that Burton securely respected the biographical accuracy. In itself nothing’s wrong with that, but the end result is just a leisurely and quiet rippling story. Nothing that will immediately blow you away, except the trial in the end. Although I briefly felt like watching an old-fashioned episode of “I Love Lucy” and had my doubts whether this part of the movie really reflected the true story. This entertaining spectacle, with Walter trying to defend himself, is a comic and theatrical one-man show. A demonstration of the narcissism and the invulnerable attitude that featured Walter Keane.

    However, I didn’t receive an answer on one key question after watching this film. Indeed it’s obvious how Margaret was manipulated and deceived in her life, not to say oppressed and effaced in a psychological way. But in the end I still didn’t know why she painted those ridiculously large and sad,eerie eyes. Besides quotes like “Things can be seen in eyes”, “They’re the windows of the soul” and the fictional story of children suffering during the war by Walter, there’s no really satisfactory answer. Was it a childhood trauma or was it because of the eyes of her daughter (Delaney Raye / Madeleine Arthur) that made her think of this gimmick? But despite this lack of explanation, it’s still a fascinating film.

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