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The true story about painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
Amy Adams – Margaret Keane
Christoph Waltz – Walter Keane
Danny Huston – Dick Dolan
Krysten Ritter – DeeAnn
Jason Schwartzman – Ruben
Terence Stamp – John Canaday
Hats off to Christoph for delivering a wickedly enjoyable character. The man brings Walter to the screen in such freaky fashion that he had me half-frowning, half-smiling for 80% of the film. Walter sort of mirrors the personality of a mad clown you’d see in a horror film; raspy shouty voice and a menacing look in his eye, the chap is fucking sinister. He stumbles around Margaret with such domineering force that it causes her to buckle under his presence. The atmosphere between the pair is highly charged with dread – top marks here for Amy and Christoph’s portrayal of a woman suffering domestic pressure.
If you passed Walter on the street in real life, you’d probably see him being arrested, he’s that mad. However, Tim Burton manages to turn it on its head and injects such a great amount of surrreal energy into a true story that it becomes something else.
Big Eyes isn’t all easy watching. The sensitive issue of domestic abuse runs as an undercurrent throughout, be it emotionally or mentally. Important issues are highlighted during scenes between the lead couple, the main one being Margaret’s surrender to Walter’s overbearing influence. One scene sees them both attend a swanky evening at a local bar in celebration of the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings. When a wealthy socialite asks who created the amazing paintings, Margaret turns and looks at Walter. There is an uneasy pause whilst clutching a painting she herself created, but catching the overpowering glare in Walter’s eyes, suddenly gives in and announces her husband as the artist. There’s a real “don’t let him” situation here as I found myself thinking “don’t give in!” constantly.
It’s not fair. But makes for intriguing viewing.
Towards the end of the movie, a showdown takes place between Margaret and Walter – all in the confines of a small-town court house. And Walter’s behaviour is the stuff of grotesque pantomime – you can certainly tell it is a Tim Burton creation..
When Walter’s lawyers exit the court room, he is literally left to his own devices as he tried to fend for himself. As the deliciously sinister scenario unfolds, we witness him split his personality in two; one second he stands defending himself, the next he looks to his left (at an imaginary lawyer) then jumps to the left and plays the part of this lawyer, whilst leaning on the stand Margaret is stood in and pressing her to answer questions. It really is a sinister situation, but makes for bloody entertaining viewing. I was sat with my face scrunched in a deep frown with my mouth hanging open, and let’s face it, if a movie can evoke that sort of reaction from its audience member, it’s effective.
I couldn’t figure out how the jury or the judge could take this man seriously; mainly due to him not having a lawyer and having to ‘hot-seat’ himself. But they swallowed it. Every drop. This scene was taken as seriously (by characters and director) as any other court room scene, which made it even more wonderfully bizarre.
I knew instantly that the music for this movie was churned out by Danny Elfman. The wonderfully speedy tunes chimed loudly from the opening scene, giving the opening of the movie a surreal, bizarre feel. Then Danny’s name popped up in the credits to seal the deal. Whenever I hear the name Danny Elfman, I immediately think, “Desperate Housewives”. He composed the opening theme tune for the long-running television series, which I adored. Having such a deliciously adulterous show laced with a pretty tinkling theme was just superb. The music was neither too serious or too light-hearted; it fit perfectly as a catchy versatile tune.
Keep your eyes peeled (I can’t get enough of all these optic references) during Big Eyes, because you may notice a few interesting elements.
Maybe it was just me, but most of the female cast in this movie had – well – big eyes! Krysten Ritter who plays Margaret’s close friend DeeAnn struck me first, with her large round peepers. I thought it was just coinsidence. But then I noticed one or two other female cast members had ‘bigguns’ – weird. See if you can spot it.
Well. Who’d have thought painting would make such a good little movie? Big Eyes is a very watchable little gem, which subtely radiates various issues along the way. It also throws a tense, juicy realisation scene between husband and wife that I thoroughly enjoyed. I literally kicked back (legs hanging over the seat in front) and relaxed (Starbucks latte in one hand, mince pie in the other) as I let this movie wash over me. It’s a perfect example of easy watching; a feature you can put on and let run – with the ability to send a few lengthy text messages and come back to it, having not lost your way as to what is happening.
If you or anyone you know is interested in art, I would highly reccommend Big Eyes. You get some nice up-close shots of Margaret streaking her brush across canvas and creating pretty pieces of work, complemented by artistic surroundings – all taking place in a beautifully structured 1950’s house.
So, well done Amy. Bravo Christoph (he looks like the sort of chap you’d say “bravo” to for some reason). And thanks Tim (Burton). This was the ideal movie to mellow in front of the day after Christmas.
Uncomplicated, entertaining, satisfying.