release date: 25 December 2014 (Canada)
run time: 104 mins
considered: Biography, Drama
director: Tim Burton
starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito, Elisabetta Fantone, James Saito, Guido Furlani, Delaney Raye, Madeleine Arthur, Emily Bruhn, Alan MacFarlane, Tony Alcantar
movie summary: Big Eyes paintings is a world-wide phenomena with several million reprints gracing walls all across the globe. Created by the imagination and beautiful brush strokes of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), these paintings sell for a good price and have personal meanings to both the artist and buyer. These pieces of art became so popular thanks to the brilliant selling skills of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), Margaret’s husband.
Margaret has always been a painter, she uses her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye/Madeleine Arthur) for inspiration, and always draws her characters with huge eyes to express emotion. After her first marriage ends in a disaster, Margaret packs up her life and moves to San Francisco where her best friend DeeAnn (Krysten Ritter) lives. With no work or life experience, Margaret gets a job painting baby cribs while showcasing her personal artwork in the park where she meets Walter one day. Walter is a struggling painter who lived in Paris for years where he mastered the art of painting city streets and landscapes. He takes a liking to Margaret and the two begin to date when she gets word she’s gonna lose her daughter so Walter suggest they get married. The newly wed couple have no money because Walter is a failed real estate agent and her artwork isn’t selling.
Walter hits up the local clubs to promote Margaret’s Big Eyes paintings and after a fight with one club owner, that lands on the front page of the newspaper, the owner agrees to showcase the paintings. Every night Walter tries his best to sell the artwork and the majority of the buyers want to meet the artist, so to close the sale Walter begins to say he painted everything. When all is said and done Walter returns home with several hundred dollars and no artwork. Margaret is pleased with this and can’t believer people want to buy her artwork, but Walter explains that he is now the face of the paintings and that she must keep painting so he can sell them using his name.
One little white lie helped grow Big Eyes into a multi-million empire while Margaret stayed in the shadows and Walter was the face. He was featured on news programs, magazines, and newspapers which lead him to gain enough money and exposure that he opened his own gallery. Frustrated and depressed, Margaret continues to drown into a pond of her own self-pity. Her substance abuse gets worse but she’s still able to produce a few new pieces of artwork every week. When Walter gets an opportunity to showcase Big Eyes artwork at the World’s Fair, Margaret has finally had enough and wants to go public with the true story, which will bring the whole empire down.
Walter threatens to kill her if the truth every comes out which forces her to take Jane and head to Hawaii in order to start over yet again. Walter tracks her down and promises bad things if she doesn’t supply him with new paintings. She decides to send him some ruined pieces of art along with some papers suing him for the rights of Big Eyes. The once happy powerful couple will head into court to find out who the real artist is and who will gain control of the Big Eyes empire.
my thoughts: When the trailer for Big Eyes came out I was intrigued to see this movie because Amy Adams is a great actress and Christoph Waltz is a brilliant bad guy. Despite it’s very predictable story and ending, I was entertained from start to finish while waiting for the bottom to fall out from under them. When you’re watching someone take credit for something they didn’t do, you know it’s only going to end in an ugly way. That’s exactly what happens with this one when our heroine Margaret Keane is mistreated for years and only wants to feel appreciated once for all her hard work.
Amy Adams is known to play a variety of characters that wear their heart on their sleeve. I can’t think of anyone else who could have played Margaret Keane as good as Adams did. She poured her heart and soul into the artwork only to never get the proper recognition she deserved. Instead of basking in the glory that her artwork would bring many customers, she is locked away in the attic, smoking and drinking at a staggering rate. In order to protect the biggest secret of her life, she’s not that close to her daughter or best friend anymore because one slip up and everything can be over. The Keane’s are racking in the dough but all that will never matter compared to the emotional toll it’s been on her mentally and physically. In a time period where the guy was always in charge, Margaret will finally get the strength to do the right thing, but it will be tough for her to pull it off twice in one lifetime.
I thought Adams was great but the actor who steals the whole movie is Christoph Waltz. He has been nominated for awards just like Adams but where the category he wins major points in, is being a bad guy. He just has the look and personality to sell you on whatever he wants and have you eat it up. His skills could sell you a car with no tires, left for dead in the ghetto, and you would be thinking you were buying a brand new BMW for a steal deal. I thought when he began the lie about painting Big Eyes, the story really shifted from her story to his story. It only mattered what he could come up with to protect his name and his empire while she just sat in the shadows. Walter Keane was able to totally destroy a human being both mentally and physically which can be extremely hard to do. He was able to control her every move and every word she said, all because he had the money and brains to sell her artwork.
One of the good things about Big Eyes is it features two good main characters that don’t need a major back story for you to get invested in them. You root for Margaret to succeed and get the recognition she deserves, but you also want to sit back and watch Walter work his magic to create another funny lie to keep the story moving forward.
my final thoughts: Big Eyes won’t win any awards and won’t appear on anyone’s Top 10 lists, but was a fun watch over the holiday season. The story appeals to an older audience, considering I was probably the youngest guy in the theatre on Christmas day, while being a solid choice for the whole family to enjoy.
my star rating: 7 out 10
imdb: 7.3 out 10
rottentomatoes: 72% out 100%
roger ebert: 2.5 out 4
richard crouse: 3.5 out 5
3 thoughts on “Big Eyes (2014)”
What made this work so well was that it had a very interesting story going for it, and rather than get in the way, Burton sits back and lets it all tell itself. He could have dug deeper, I feel, but nonetheless, there’s still an entertaining piece here and that’s what I appreciate more. Good review Ryan.
I’m not a huge Tim Burton fan, some of his stuff works for me and some doesn’t but Big Eyes did. He does some crazy things and this didn’t feel like one of them.
Fine review. I really, really enjoyed this picture. Like you I’m not a huge Burton fan but this and Frankenweenie has won me over a bit. I thought this was a fascinating story led by two really strong lead performances.