Big Eyes

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Terence Stamp

Rated: PG-13 (thematic elements and brief strong language)

A drama about the awakening of 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.

 

Big Eyes

By Matt Greene

Big Eyes is ALMOST great in many ways. It strongly shows the melancholic underbelly of the pristine looking 1950s suburbia, shooting it with nostalgic beauty. The slice-of-life American-art-history plot is fascinating, and stars Adams and Waltz can more than fill a screen. Unfortunately what does fill the screen is nothing more than a pretty (albeit dull) excuse to clumsily relay facts.

The facts revolve around a real-life couple who made millions selling the wife’s truly haunting and beautiful artwork. The catch: they’ve convinced everyone in this male-dominant society that the husband is actually the artist. The details that flow from this bizarre true story are not without compelling moments, and the “Big Eye” paintings really are a thing to behold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have much to say about its subject, settling for heavy-handed misogyny claims and ham-fisted editing rather than having its own view-point.

Another shame is the waste of some great talent. No one plays a more charismatic worm than Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), and Adams always paints her characters with complexity and intrigue. Otherwise, the performances are pretty lacking, with even Adams and Waltz struggling to create any real chemistry with each other or the script. Of course with dialogue this flat and lifeless, it’s really no surprise the actors struggled.

Normally, Burton’s strength is his surrealism. In one scene, Adams’ character’s world starts to meld with her art, and the film actually comes alive for a minute…but then they drop this style altogether. Big Eyes needs more of Burton’s signature quirk and flair, and LESS of the confused tone, to be a film worth a look.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

 

Big Eyes

By Cole Schneider

“Big Eyes” is the most frustrating kind of movie. There are moments, whole segments even, where it shines. The film follows painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) as she meets her husband and takes a backseat to his career and fame while she does all the work, then eventually comes out as the true success story. The film also follows Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) as he meets his wife and steals credit, fame, and money for all of her work, then must deal with his life’s lies.

There is a great movie within “Big Eyes”, there may be two great movies within “Big Eyes”. The primary problem with the film as that they don’t mesh well together whatsoever. Amy Adams is in one movie and Christoph Waltz is in another. Both stories are compelling, but one is a straight feminist drama and the other a quirky tragicomedy about identity. Adams is trying to be Meryl Streep and Waltz is trying to be Johnny Depp. Neither are terrible–Adams might be great–but they can’t get out of each other’s way.

Every time the film shifted protagonists, if was at the expense of the other. The tone was all over the place and the editing was misguided. In all of this, there is very little of Tim Burton’s signature visual style. The auteur responsible for such fun and weird adventures as “Beetlejuice”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Ed Wood”, and “Big Fish” has but one real flourish in “Big Eyes”, which is especially disconcerting given the great story that seems in line with his best work.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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