[Film Review] Big Eyes (2014)

Big Eyes poster

Title: Big Eyes
Year: 2014
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Director: Tim Burton
Scott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski
Music: Danny Elfman
Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
Amy Adams
Christoph Waltz
Danny Huston
Krysten Ritter
Jason Schwartzman
Terence Stamp
Jon Polito
Delaney Raye
Madeleine Arthur
James Saito
Rating: 5.4/10

Big Eyes 2014

When I first read the brief synopsis of this biography feature from Tim Burton about painter Margaret Keane, and the notorious scandal in the art scene of 1960s in America, my prompt answer to how to solve the chief issue – who is the real creator behind all these paintings, Margaret (Adams) or her husband Walter (Waltz)?- is rather simple, unlike literature and music, painting is an art form too visual-dependent, so why not just let them paint? Then a second thought strikes me that maybe Walter is capable of simulating Margaret’s trademark style, which could elongate this lawsuit case into a more complicated protracted battle. Well, the truth is, I was thinking too much, during the court sequences, after a long-standing filibuster from Walter, which presumably should be funny but only feels insufferable, finally the judge orders them to paint, but as audience has already been informed that Walter simply cannot paint, that is all, case closed, Margaret’s win is such a duck soup, what a stroke of bathos!

They could be a perfect match, as the fact proves before their fallout, Margaret has the talent and Walter has the shrewd business mind, one redundant thing is Walter’s pompous artistic ambition, which seems pretty senseless in hindsight due to the fact that he is a complete sham, however Margaret is not completely scot-free in this since obviously she condones Walter’s actions, succumbs to the gender inequity of its time and sates to the easy success as his ghost painter, only occasionally, she is perturbed that there is something missing in her self-esteem and artistic integrity and the fact that there is a missing link between her and her daughter because she has to lie to her all the time. Perhaps, wealth could compensate all this, if Walter was smart enough. Yet his escalating ambition blinds his eyes, he is not satisfied with all the wealth, he craves the rarefied prestige in the fine arts, and forgets it takes time for artworks to become classics. He fails miserably, and stupid enough, he blames it on Margaret, the goldmine of their unity. Since then, he is downhill all the way.

As a Tim Burton picture, apart from the variegated colour scheme which underlines a polished San Francisco and Hawaii in 1960s, overtly the real-life story does foil Burton from letting his fantasy soar, merely in the supermarket scenes where the usual Burton-esque surrealism comes to blink in a jiffy.

This is supposed to be Amy Adam’s another Oscar-inviting performance after she miraculously acquires 5 nominations in a pretty short span, but I actually quite relieved that she didn’t get her sixth this time, not that I don’t appreciate her as an actress, she is always pleasantly welcoming on screen and has become one of my favourites among her peers, only that her performance as Margaret Keane is just not Oscar-worthy by any criterion, if she had secured another filler nomination with this, she would literally become the most overpraised actress presently (probably even in the entire Oscar history), it is never a good sign with that label. She need some time off the radar and finally seizes her opportunity using her overdue status from a trumping card, like Julianne Moore has done for STILL ALICE (2014). But here, in favour of the broad comical tone, Burton and the screenwriters fail to invest more into Margaret’s psyche, all the strife has conveniently dumbed down to a marital battle for their valuable assets. Another setback is Christoph Waltz, a two-time Oscar winner, severely miscast with his buffoonish impersonation of an oil-tongued charlatan, not in the same page with Adam’s more poised and empathetic endeavor.

BIG EYES is an awkward commodity in Burton’s output, mediocre on every level, it has the potential to make a mordant mockery of contemporary art sphere, for all its pop art Vs. highbrow elitism confrontation, but it barely takes off from that domain, it seems Burton now reaches a middling plateau in his career coincides with an unexpected termination of his marriage with muse Helena Bonham Carter, please go back to the fantasy world Mr. Burton, maybe finding a new muse is much more urgent right now.

Oscar 2014 - Big Eyes

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