The business of art can be a tricky enterprise to take on. Creativity needs to be commended and credited properly. Plagiarism and fraud can damage a piece’s reputation and the consequences can be disastrous. This scenario is at the forefront in Tim Burton’s latest offbeat dramedy Big Eyes, an unbelievably true story that doesn’t seem true at all. The film has all the makings of a fantastical tale conjured up by imaginative screenwriters and realized visually by one of Hollywood’s most well-known and respected auteurs. It is a fun little movie with excellent performances, a smart script and some of the more subdued elements of Mr. Tim Burton’s signature quirky style.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the art world saw one of its strangest situations. Said situation involved Margaret (Amy Adams) and Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), two artists, one with natural talent and the other with limited abilities in painting but excelled in business and basking in fame and fortune. Margaret was a gifted painter, who drew pictures of young girls with big eyes. These works caught the eye of Walter, who soon married Margaret. Eventually, however, Walter began signing his name on her works and this led to a downward spiral in their marriage and an eventual courtroom battle over their union and “their” art.
Big Eyes is not your typical Tim Burton production and that’s very refreshing. Johnny Depp is nowhere to be seen and gothic scenery and costumes don’t adorn the sets. This is a human story and one that hits the bull’s-eye in more ways than one. First and foremost, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz continue to amaze and dazzle with their superb performances. Their chemistry is a strange one but it fits the mood of the film perfectly. Supporting turns from Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman and Terrence Stamp are all carefully placed and provide some excellent humor in this light dramedy.
Not since 2003’s Big Fish has a Burton film felt this genuine and fun. The characters are all relatable and there are basically no fantasy elements. It is a far cry from Alice in Wonderland and the absence of Johnny Depp is even more welcome. The script was penned by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon) and it is a sharp and witty biopic of the Keane’s. The story is completely true and the real Margaret Keane even approved the filmmakers’ choices in recapturing the sensational elements of her life.
Soon to be released on Christmas day, Big Eyes is a cute example of a genius director drawing outside the lines and venturing outside his comfort zone. Big Fish was also released this time of the year 11 years ago and the tone of both films is actually quite similar. Big Eyes, of course, does not contain supernatural creatures or aspects that appear out of this world. It is a film about people, real people, and audiences will respond to it in a very positive way. Adams and Waltz have already been nominated for Golden Globes, and the screenplay has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. With all this buzz, Big Eyes is certain to garner some huge accolades and win over audiences in the process.