Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter
The creation of art is such a personal form of expression and the idea of someone stripping away that ownership feels incredibly harsh. It takes a valiant woman to fight against a mindset created by such a vile man in order to get what she justly deserves.
After having to leave her ex-husband, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) moves to San Francisco where she seeks to start a new life and sell her paintings. She quickly falls in love with and marries fellow painter, Walter (Christoph Waltz) who proposes the idea that since the public won’t purchase artwork from women, he’ll sell her art for her. They establish this partnership on top of their marriage that begins to get toxic when he starts telling others that he’s the artist behind her iconic big-eyed paintings.
I’m as surprised as you are seeing that Tim Burton was the director who crafted this truly marvelous feature film. Burton’s movies certainly have their own shade of black to them, but in the new century, he’s turned in that card to tell more mainstream stories, which have mostly fallen as duds, but he creates something special with Big Eyes. The story isn’t some large mindless Disney product, but rather a story of perseverance and advocacy for women who’ve ever had to succumb to the restrictions laid out by the men around them. The way it all comes together solidified it as my favorite Tim Burton film, even if it happens to be the antithesis of his iconic visual style.
It all begins with Margaret Keane, portrayed brilliantly by Amy Adams. Her journey revolves around honesty, where she takes the word of those she trusts and therefore deteriorates her own in the process. She allows Walter to sell her work because she believes him when he states that the work of women will not sell. Although never officially discussed she was unaware that he would actually go and take credit for all of her work while doing the selling. Initially, it did not have much of an impact on her, because she didn’t have the charisma to sell like Walter and she cared more for supporting her daughter more than the fame and adulation that came from the success of her paintings. It’s not until the dishonesty that has led to this success reaches her daughter does she realize that everything must change forthwith. It makes it all painfully clear to her and her fight to advocate for herself thus begins.
Initially, I was drawn to this film because of Amy Adams but it also had the added bonus of Christoph Waltz playing a very charismatic over the top character. It happens to be the type of role he loves playing recently and he really chewed up the scenery as Walter. He could turn up the charm in one scene and then be truly despicable in the next. It demonstrates how Margaret could have fallen for him so easily before realizing just how evil he has always been. Waltz turns it up in the second act of the film, which truly exposes his soul and true feelings all along.
The city of San Francisco looks gorgeous and becomes part of the charm of the story. It has features that add to the story, as it looks at the art scene in the historic city. The landscape ranges from someone humble like Margaret but also the hilarious gallery owner, Ruben (Jason Schwarzman). He becomes one of the first people to see Margaret’s painting and calls them ugly. I appreciate that the character doesn’t change throughout the course of the film, as even as the big-eyed paintings sell out everywhere, he maintains his very obnoxious take that they remain to be junk. It certainly helps that Jason Schwartzman portrayed the character, and he can portray smugness better than most actors.
Plenty of heart flows throughout the film and Amy Adams brings brightness to subject matter that got intense at times. She highly elevated the story through her sympathetic performance as Margaret Keane and demonstrated the power behind what appeared to be fairly simple paintings. As the saying goes, “the eyes are the window into the soul.” Looking into Big Eyes shows an empowering film that honors honesty over anything else.