Sunday, July 3, 2016

Big Eyes (2014)


There are some things that we see all the time and it never crosses our minds to think about where they came from. One of my favorites comes from Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin ponders who was the first human to look at a cow’s udder and say, “I’m going to drink whatever comes out of this.” But I digress. I had seen the big eyed little waif pictures before, but I had never thought about who painted them. And lo and behold, Tim Burton decides to make a movie about this. Well this ought to be interesting.

Life is tough for Margaret (Amy Adams) and her daughter. She’s left her husband to make a life in San Francisco. There she meets fellow artist Walter Keane (Chrisoph Waltz) a charming man who sweeps her off her feet. The two marry and attempt to make ends meet selling their paintings. But when Margaret’s big-eyed waif paintings start selling like hotcakes, Walter accidently tells a few folks that he painted them.

Soon the lie gets out of control, and as the popularity of the art grows, so does Walter’s fame. Margaret is pushed aside to paint in a secluded room in their own house (even hiding the truth from her own daughter) while Walter finds more ways to exploit their fame. But this secret can’t stay buried forever, and when it gets out that Margaret may have painted all the paintings with Big Eyes, Walter isn’t going to let her get away with it. Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp and Jon Polito round out the cast.

Good Points:
  • Solid acting by the whole cast
  • Some great use of colors and visuals
  • Moves at a good pace 
Bad Points:
  • Follows the typical biopic beats – no surprises here
  • Comes across a little less visually interesting than you’d expect from Mr. Burton
  • A few characters seem to get lost in the story only to reappear when needed

This is one of those movies that will be a great find for those interested in the Keane’s saga already. For everyone else, it is solid entertainment, but is missing that extra something to really knock it out of the park. Part of issue is expectations. Burton crafted the amazingly entertaining Ed Wood so I was expecting something with a bit more of a unique flavor. But this is not even in the same league. It is closer to Lovelace. Not a bad film by any means, but not one you are likely to remember a year or two from now.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 3
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I remember this affair from the news, but at the time regarded it as tawdry business and didn’t pay close attention. I suppose the same lingering reaction deterred me from seeing the movie. Not consciously: I never explicitly thought “I don’t want to hear about that tawdry business again,” but it probably underlay by reluctance to tune in. I didn’t even notice it was Tim Burton. But now that you mention it, there is no one better suited to present the tale. I might give it a spin after all.

    1. Yes it is a bit tawdry. But Burton presents the story and characters really well and the acting make this one worth catching if you get the chance.

  2. I was glad to see Burton take on something a bit more down to earth than his typical fare, plus I generally enjoy bio pics about artist and their lives. I remember seeing prints (or similarly styled) art like that, and I just thought it looked kitschy. But the film actually got me to appreciate it a bit more. I wish Burton would tackle a bit more films in this vein as his other genre films of late haven't interested me.

    It is a film that probably you won't remember a year or two from now, but then neither is 50-70% of the movies that come out today.

    1. Yeah I think my expectations were not met, and that isn't the movie's fault. Just my mental issues. :) But I like to see Burton's quirky side, it is what makes his work interesting. I do wish he would give us something completely original, like "Beetlejuice" or "Frankenweenie" more often. And I just love "Ed Wood" but that isn't typical of Burton either, but I felt his passion for the film in it.

      Good point. A lot of movies kind of fall in one eye and pop out the other. But Burton's distinctive style makes many of them stick around.

  3. I pretty much agree with you assessment. I really wanted to like this one and went in expecting Burton to hit out of the park a la ED WOOD (they both share the same screenwriters) but it felt kinda flat to me. Waltz's character really got on my nerves and I thought Adams did a wonderful job but the film could've used Burton's trademark visual flair. Maybe he felt that if he did that it would have distracted from the story. I dunno...

    1. Yeah I think you and I had "Ed Wood" on the brain. But I'm starting to think that was a one of a kind movie. I'm OK with that, but I just saw the potential in this movie and it disappointed.