Big Eyes

Posted by Joel Copling on December 25, 2014

One supposes that one should give "Big Eyes" the credit that it's due: This is a movie that admirably strips away director Tim Burton's eccentricities for probably his most "normal" movie since 2003's "Big Fish" and one that at least attempts commentary on artistic accreditation. Unfortunately, Burton's style, though relieved of the burden of wonky visuals and smoking caterpillars and yet another Johnny Depp creation, is rendered moot here; there is no real directorial identity, from Burton or otherwise. And the film's commentary on artistic credit given to whom it is due is about as deep as a thesis statement on the subject.

It is yet another "based on true events" movie, this time about the paintings of Walter Keane and the truths that surfaced about the lies surrounding them. The Keane of the film is played by Christoph Waltz, thankfully shedding his broadly villainous role for one that could be more rightly described as a cad. He is not a good man, and the screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski repeatedly makes sure that we have reason to dislike his not-goodness. After all, Keane cheated his new wife Margaret (Amy Adams) soon after marrying her, taking credit for her series of portraits (whose signature creative construct is, as the title states, a widening and lengthening of the eyes) because no one buys "lady art."

It isn't particularly complex material, and everyone involved seems to know it. Only when the final 15 minutes devolve into an uninteresting courtroom drama does the film take on its central theme. Otherwise, it's a case of repetition of theme, bogging down Adams's fairly lovely presence in a trite role that doesn't really grow beyond a single trait ("jilted wife/artist"). Waltz, too, makes the best of a one-note role; it also has the unfortunate duty of showcasing the film's childish outlook on criticism (Terence Stamp has a glorified cameo as a critic with a seemingly never-ending grudge, and the film's opening quotation comes courtesy of Andy Warhol, whose ideas on subjectivity were pretty silly and backwards). "Big Eyes" isn't just inconsequential but narrow-minded, too.

Film Information

Amy Adams (Margaret Keane), Christoph Waltz (Walter Keane), Danny Huston (Dick Nolan), Jon Polito (Enrico Banducci), Krysten Ritter (DeeAnn), Jason Schwartzman (Ruben), Terence Stamp (John Canaday).

Directed by Tim Burton and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.

Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, brief language).

105 minutes.

Released on December 25, 2014.