Sunday, January 18, 2015

Big Eyes

Year: 2015
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Terence Stamp, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman

Plot: Based on the true story of Margaret Keane, a painter who struggled to claim credit for her own work when her husband stole the credit during the 1960s.

Review: With Big Eyes, Tim Burton is finally taking a break from working with his usual muses Johnny Depp and former wife Helena Bonham Carter, and it turned out to be a wise decision. While this film may be based on a true story, it is told as a comedy, and much less of the usual Burton quirks, which actually works in its favour.

Big Eyes focuses on Margaret, a painter who is known for drawing and painting children with huge eyes. As she struggles to make ends meet and look after her daughter, she meets Walter Keane, a painter who takes interest in her work. They hit it off quickly and get hitched just as fast. When Walter is unable to sell his own paintings, he passes off Margaret's work as his own and makes a fortune selling them. At first she dislikes the idea, but goes along with it to keep her future stable. Then slowly but surely, Walter's obsession with continuing the charade takes its toll and she has to make a decision to save herself.

Burton's decision to make this a comedy (although it has its fair share of drama) was a good one, as it keeps the story interesting and flowing smoothly. The comedy part of this story comes mostly from Christoph Waltz, who plays Walter with a enormous dose of charm and gregariousness, making him very likable even as he's playing the bad guy here. As we've seen before, Waltz is a master at this balancing act. Other supporting characters played by Krysten Ritter (as Margaret's best friend), Jason Schwartzman (as an art gallery owner) and Jon Polito (as a club owner) also bring in some measure of laughs. The drama part is brought in by Amy Adams, who gives Margaret the right amount of vulnerability and eventual strength. You may not always understand her motives for continuing to become a victim, but you'll root for her nonetheless. Danny Huston and Terence Stamp also do well in grounding the film, the former as a reporter and the film's narrator, and the latter as an art critic.

Burton also deserves credit for making his film very pretty, visual and audio wise. Working with long time collaborators Colleen Atwood (costume) and Danny Elfman (music) certainly paid off here. As mentioned, with as little quirkiness as possible, Burton has made this film more accessible than his previous work. In other words, there's more to like here by most audiences, even those who aren't Burton fans.

The film could use a bit of editing here and there, especially in showing the audience how bad a situation Margaret is in. It almost feels like forever before she finally does the right thing, but at the very least, the pay off is satisfying enough.

Big Eyes is a solid return to form for Tim Burton, and I recommend this film to everyone, even if you know little about art. (8/10)  

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