Tim Burton movies don’t quite have the same allure they used to, but I was still looking forward to his latest change-of-pace effort, Big Eyes, the amazing real-life story of artists Margaret and Walter Keane.
As the title suggests, the film is about the controversial “Big Eyes” artworks. I may have lived under a rock for most of my life, but even I have seen them before. Like most people, however, I had no idea who painted them and that there was a crazy story behind the true artist. If you don’t know about it, then I suggest you go into the film knowing as little as possible, though even if you do — as I did after “accidentally” doing a bit of reading about it — it’s definitely not a deal breaker.
Amy Adams plays Margaret, a divorced single mother and artist who meets the charismatic and manipulative Walter, brought to life by the always impressive Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. Walter sweeps Margaret off her feet and the two soon marry. To make ends meet Walter starts renting out wall space in the hopes of selling their paintings, and before long the Big Eyes strike it big, giving the couple everything they could ever dream of. But of course, there is a secret — a very badly-kept one if you’ve seen even just five seconds of the trailer…
Set in the 1950s, Big Eyes is a film that speaks volumes about the sexual equality and the role of women back in those days, which goes a long way to explaining the characters’ actions and motivations. Apart from providing social commentary, the film is also quietly entertaining — not with action or thrills, but with thought-provoking intrigue and quirky humour. You can sense Tim Burton’s shadow in many of the jokes and in Waltz’s flamboyant performance (it’s a role Johnny Depp probably could have done), though thank god it is mostly restrained and not over the top. That said, it is still a very funny film, one that almost pokes fun at the outrageousness of the situation at every turn.
Speaking of performances, Amy Adams delivers another stellar one as the uneasy Margaret, a woman who settles for less because of the times but has an enviable inner strength waiting to be unleashed. The Golden Globe win was well deserved, but I can also see why Adams, as well as the rest of the film, was overlooked for the Oscars. It’s a pleasant and very watchable film, though despite its shocking true-story premise the production lacks a certain “wow” factor that typically captivates Academy voters.
Notwithstanding its lack of Oscar-worthiness, Big Eyes is a fun and educational experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously despite tackling some serious themes. I laughed, I cringed, and I even learned a thing or two. I enjoyed it a lot.
3.75 stars out of 5