Margaret is a painter who meets her husband Walter Keane in San Francisco. First a partnership of Walter using his talent for negotiations to sell Margaret’s paintings, their professional and private relationship steadily worsen when Walter takes credit for Margaret’s work.
Tim Burton is a good director, and both Amy Adams (Margaret) and Christoph Waltz (Walter) are great actors, but none of them are meant for this story.
Burton decided to produce and direct the film, based on a real story, due to his personal connection to Keane’s work, and audiences tired of his simple-minded films such as Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland will certainly have breathed a sigh of relief at this announcement.
Don’t worry, Johnny Depp is nowhere in sight.
Unfortunately Burton’s style does not lend itself to biopics. The settings are beautiful but highly stylised, not a hair out of place, which in this particular story, seeing as it criticises the heartlessness of commercialised art, is like scoring an own goal.
The film looks great and is entertaining in a wholly foreseeable way. What would have made Big Eyes stand out however, would have been an in-depth look into what makes its characters, real people, tick.
In multiple scenes people try to decipher where Margaret gets her ideas from and how she infuses her paintings with life.
We know her husband, a Class-A fraud so slimy you wonder how Margaret didn’t immediately question him, doesn’t have the answer.
We as the audience however, won’t hear it either. There is so much time spent watching Walter Keane inflate his ego that Margaret, the true subject of the story, begins to feel like a supporting character.
Emotions are only uncovered in drunk scenes with uncomfortably on-the-nose dialogue, but the chance for true acting, the chance to make this film more than an account of a failed marriage, is given away.
Worse even, while Amy Adams tries to act her way out of a bad script, Waltz gives such a hysterical performance the man who nabbed no less than two Oscars comes across a petulant child.
Big Eyes, much like Keane’s paintings, serves to divide audiences into those who look for a short diversion and those who mourn what could have been.
Unable to realise the promise of an interesting story and great actors, Big Eyes is more Tim Burton cinema fast-food, good-looking but ultimately bland.
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: 20th April 2015