Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston
Director: Tim Burton
Running Time: 105 mins
Big Eyes is an American film about the true story of Margaret Keane, a woman whose unique paintings of big-eyed children became an international phenomenon in the early 1960s, albeit with her husband taking all the credit for the artwork.
This is the sort of film I wish we’d see more often from Tim Burton. Something a lot less moody and gothic than normal, Big Eyes is a fantastic demonstration of what a good director he is. It’s a beautiful-looking film from start to finish, but moreover, Burton gets some great performances out of his lead actors, and makes the real-life story not only fascinating, but emotionally gripping throughout.
Based around the life of a painter, you’d expect this movie to have a good artistic style to it. Thankfully, that’s exactly the case here, as Big Eyes is a wonderfully indulgent visual experience above all else. The bright, pastel colours that dominate the screen for nearly all of the film are appealing and pleasant to see, but also work brilliantly when contrasting the emotions of Margaret Keane with the success of her husband.
Despite her incredible talent for these unique paintings, she allows her husband to take credit for them so that he can sell them off better. However, her emotional turmoil comes through powerfully when you compare her feelings (brilliantly portrayed by Amy Adams) with the bustling, bright and wealthy world growing around her. As she grows more and more frustrated, the film actually seems to get visually brighter, reemphasising that contrast and strengthening your own anger as the story unfolds.
Along with the visual style, Burton’s direction, in tandem with Amy Adam’s performance, goes a long way to making Margaret Keane such a fascinating central character. I never knew the true story going into this movie, having never seen a painting of Keane’s, but I was enthralled by her life story right from the word go. A major part of that is how Burton uses her paintings as an unorthodox symbol of isolation and inner turmoil.
The big eyes of the children on the canvasses have a distinctly eerie and unnerving quality, particularly when seeing Keane in her small, cramped studio, surrounded by hordes of eyes staring and judging her. The film also uses the character’s eyes as the focal point of their personalities, Amy Adams being given big, bright blue eyes, whilst Christoph Waltz’s eyes are a lot smaller and darker, a clever but effective little detail to show the truth that hides behind the facade.
The central performances here are also very good. Although Christoph Waltz sometimes seems like he’s overdoing it just a bit, particularly in the film’s disappointing and somewhat bizarre final act, his performance does come good when we learn more and more about his character, and he’s able to provide some stunning twists and turns throughout, making the biopic as unpredictable and dramatic as it is intriguing.
But the real stand-out here is Amy Adams. Her character is a woman with brilliant talent, but not enough resolve and strength to go out into the world and prove people who doubt her wrong, and in that, I can’t think of anyone better than Amy Adams to play the role. As likable as ever, she brings a fantastic range to the character, making us both feel sorry for her, but also convincingly displaying the timid woman’s gradual growth of anger and frustration, a key part of making the film so infuriating to watch, but utterly gripping as a result.
Overall, I really liked Big Eyes. It’s an excellent work from Tim Burton, whose directing makes it both an appealing and enthralling story. Biopics don’t always provide the greatest dramas of all time, but thanks to great writing (most of the time), excellent performances and a wonderful visual style, this is a gripping and fascinating true story, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.