A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
They say the truth is strange than fiction. It’s certainly not been the case for Tim Burton over the years however. He’s made a name for himself as the whacky, eccentric and imaginative type, entering crazy and cooky gothic wonderlands whilst reinventing some iconic characters along the way. It seems the tide has shifted with his latest release though.
“Big Eyes”, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz was released following the tragic split of Burton and wife of 13 years, Hellena Botham Carter in late 2014 (or as it’s most commonly known; Tim’s Nightmare Before Christmas) and follows a husband and wife pairing with conflicting agendas of their own. The story is gobsmacking to say the least, but to learn that it’s based on a true story is even worse.
Margaret (Amy Adams) is an artist who possesses a certain style. Struggling to sell any of her works, she meets Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) one afternoon at a street market-type affair. Walter is confident, flirtatious and gifted in his own right, and it’s after the two seamlessly fall for one another, that a blossoming and booming relationship emerges.
The relationship however, turns into a business scheme all too quickly as a simple formula regarding distribution and sales gets skewed by Walter’s ego, deception and selfishness.
Margaret’s paintings, which are essentially gothic little children looking gloomily towards their audience with enormous eyes, become increasingly popular thanks to the marketing skills of Walter, but it’s only after the Keane signature (of his now-wife Margaret) becomes the talking point of buyers, that Walter himself begins to claim the pieces as his own.
Surely this could not have happened!
Well, the truth of the matter is that it absolutely did, and I for one am very surprised that I hadn’t heard of the ‘Big Eyes’ story earlier. Set in the 50’s and 60’s, “Big Eyes” focuses on several era-based issues, mostly that of women’s role and status in society, and it’s heartbreaking to watch poor Margaret endure over a decade of unfairness and tyranny at the hands of her husband. “Big Eyes” also delves into the age-old question regarding what ‘Art’ really is.
This is primarily played out through Jason Schwartzman’s Ruben, an arrogant, snobby salesman who is highly dismissive of certain works, in particular, the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings.
Criticism and relevance play major parts, as do consumerism and industrialism. Greed becomes overpowering and obsession progresses to break those who get carried away; there’s a lot to take out of “Big Eyes”.
Christoph Waltz is very impressive as Walter, however there are times where he becomes a little bit too ‘Waltzy’ for me. It’s not over-acting, it’s just when compared to his wife, I very much see Christoph Waltz on the screen and not Walter at certain points.
Nitpicking aside, watching Walter, the shameless plagiarist conn his way through shows, exhibitions and interviews is a real struggle for an audience, but it’s a true credit to Waltz and his abilities to realise the slanderous and scandalous conspirator.
Amy Adams however is the film’s key performer. I haven’t really been the biggest fan of Adams over the years, primarily because I don’t think she’s been given a role that could really catapult her into the echelon of a Waltz. She has appeared in several films with stellar casts, but she’s never been a show-stealer for me, until now.
Her performance in “Big Eyes” is something special. Thoroughly deserving of her Golden Globe, she absolutely shines as Margaret, a sympathetic soul that at times is as equally annoying as Walter, purely because of her inability to stand up for herself. It’s painful to watch her get pushed over time after time, but we have to remember that it would have been extremely difficult to juggle excessive fame and wealth with your own pride and dignity, especially with the likes of Walter constantly in your ear.
Tim Burton’s directorial style has very much sobered up for “Big Eyes”. His first biopic since 1994’s “Ed Wood”, it’s restrained and toned down heavily in order to tell a more realistic story, but it’s not completely without the odd sprinkling of Burton magic.
In what I believe to be the film’s best scene, Margaret ventures through a supermarket and reflects on her current struggles. Passing a cleverly placed assemblage of Campbell’s soup cans, she begins to hallucinate and see staff, customers and people alike staring at her with the famous big eyes from her paintings. It’s moments such as this that were missing from “Big Eyes”, and it’s rather ironic to say so.
I’m not wishing there was an abundance of moments such as this, but a little more here and there could have added some real flair to the film overall. For what is a solid feature for the most part, “Big Eyes” really falls flat upon it’s conclusion. The plot escalates to what could have been a really dramatic and tense finale, however it sums itself up far too quickly and leaves you feeling a little empty and unfulfilled.
Nevertheless, “Big Eyes” is ultimately a return to form for Burton.
I enjoyed “Big Eyes”, but when looking at it’s memorable qualities, it’s really only the performance of Adams that carries any substance. It’s a wonderfully transitioned tale of hardship and deceit that is painful to watch at times. Burton has impressed with his latest but hasn’t amazed, plus it’s odd to see a lack of Johnny Depp this time around.
Something tells me if you were to look hard enough though, he’d be lurking somewhere in the background…