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Big Eyes - what a pity!


Here's one movie that has all the right (even perfect) ingredients but doesn't really succeed to lift up to the expectations. Coming from one of our favorite specialists in gloomy & funny stories, the ruffled director Tim Burton, you would expect Big Eyes to burn the cinema screen and give every cinephile a new subject to talk about for a good couple of years at least - either in awe of his creative genius or disgusted with his bad choices. I'm not claiming people aren't talking about it, I haven't even checked the reviews it received, but, as I see it, the only aspect worth talking about is that with all the Keanes, Waltz, Adams and Burton in it, this story doesn't manage to deliver. Even the screenwriters are supposed to be pretty brilliant - Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote the screenplays for Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon - but they failed (me, at least) at managing to tell the audience an engaging, entertaining or at least interesting story. The bit they manage to keep from their previous titles is depicting a weird kind of artist - just like Ed Wood was the 'the worst' director and Andy Kaufman was a freak, the Keanes have a hard time finding a place in the art world, especially her.

big eyes

Big Eyes tells the true and really interesting story of the Keane husbands. Walter and Margaret Keane were, supposedly, a couple of painters, living in the glorious 50s. But, if you check Wikipedia, you'll read that Walter was an American 'plagiarist' who just pretended to be the author of his wife's portraits of doe-like eyed children, women and animals that rapidly turned into a marketing boom in the 60s.

big eyes couple

She was a poor single mother - which was a very hard position to maintain back in the days - when Walter picked her up and convinced her to marry him. He was a charmer and a great salesman who had always wanted to be an artist. He lived part of his life claiming he had painted the streets of Paris. That's until he discovered the weird potential of his wife's rather kitschy art. As he tried to sell his and hers art in a famous restaurant, he got into a fight with the manager who was pretty famous in the world of gossip papers. The right picture taken at the right time got on the first page of magazines and Keane's work received instant interest. Finally getting what he had always wanted - a bit of fame as an artist, Keane took credit for his wife's work and convinced her to play along as he was a more charismatic and more skilled figure to help the family's fortune grow. He was also a man, which, back then, meant more credibility than a woman trying to make her way into the art world. Naive and mesmerized by her husband's explosive way of being, Margaret Keane gave in to the pressure and became a shadow figure, locked up in her 'ivory tower', producing paintings of fragile beings with big eyes at an almost industrial scale, while her husband turned the doe eyes into a trademark for posters, postcards and all the other materials you could print a painting on and sell. However, as Keane got weirder and more violent on his way to fake success, Margaret managed to run away and divorce him. She also managed to gather the guts she needed to tell the whole world the truth in a process that took Hollywood by surprise.

big eyes amy

Now back to Burton - few might know that he is a Keane art collector and that in the 90s, he commissioned Margaret Keane to paint a portrait of his then-girlfriend, Lisa Marie. So his connection to the case is highly personal. What I figure happened is that he just wanted to tell this story and I'm glad he did because, in many ways, it will stick to me as a case of plagiarism meets the war between sexes. However, back to Big Eyes, it left me wanting more of everything. Christoph Waltz was thrilling, but not as thrilling as we know he could be. His character is more of a clown, a bit expressionist but not as wild as I wished Burton would picture Keane by means of Waltz's hypnotizing acting skills. So while Waltz over-acts, Keane still feels under-developed. There's a pinch of Jason Schwartzman thrown in and he manages to pull of a righteous portrayal of an art gallery curator from back in the days. Amy Adams is also an impressive name of the moment and she is the presence I enjoyed most throughout the movie, mostly because of her physical presence - starting with her blonde hairstyle and dreamy blue eyes and culminating with her frail movements and somewhat sedated gaze. If Burton meant to portray a woman whose personality was sunken under the heavy weight of her era, he managed to do so and I give Big Eyes that. But at the end of it, I found myself in great need of seeing the big eyes she started to see around her, driven a bit mad by the speed and quantity of works she needed to deliver in order to soothe her husband's unquenched megalomania. That's what I had hoped from Burton and the fact that he only threw in a lead to that kind of movie left me a bit frustrated and lacking the salt and pepper Big Eyes needed in order not to be forgotten as soon as the end credits start rolling.

Tags:   review, trailer, Christoph Waltz, Amy Adams, film review, Jason Schwartzman, new movies, Tim Burton, Big Eyes, Walter Keane, Margaret Keane, Keane

Related:   Man on the Moon, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ed Wood, Big Eyes



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