Sunday, February 22, 2015

Big Eyes - fame and betrayal

movie review

Big Eyes is the classic tale of a woman’s suffering in a chauvinist environment

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Jon Polito, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, and Terence Stamp
Directed by: Tim Burton
Tagline: She created it. He sold it. And everyone bought it.

Despite being based on a fascinating tale about the union and eventual rift between an artist and a con artist, Tim Burton’s surprisingly conventional execution of Big Eyes is not nearly as compelling as it should have been.

Set in the late 1950s, the film tells the story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) as she flees her marriage and moves to San Francisco where she falls for and eventually marries the charismatic Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). She paints big-eyed waifs, he paints Parisian street scenes, but neither receives much attention for their art. However, through persistent hard work and some luck, Walter succeeds in generating interest
in Margaret’s paintings, but also ends up claiming credit for them. Margaret reluctantly goes along with the fraud, as the artwork receives recognition despite being loathed by art critics. Walter, a gifted promoter, builds a successful enterprise by mass producing prints of the paintings, while Margaret toils away in secret, becoming increasingly discontent with the setup.

It may not be the most exciting plot, but the real-life story behind Big Eyes is definitely intriguing. What the film lacks, however, is the depth and complexity that would have lifted the project into a truly impressive cinematic experience. Its straightforward, almost bland execution leaves its nuances unexplored and the one-sided take on events robs the movie of the more realistic shades of grey that could have captivated viewers as the events unfold.

Big Eyes does succeed in bringing the mid-century world to life and is visually well-made. The acting talent is also noteworthy, despite the fact that the supporting cast is mostly underused. Adams’ gentle performance as a protagonist is the highlight of the movie and she adds a much-needed layer of emotion to the proceedings. On the other hand Waltz’s over-the-top performance, though not necessarily bad on its own, takes his showmanship to cartoonish proportions and clashes with Amy’s tender turn. It almost appears as if the actors were operating in two different films and did not belong in the same frame.

Populated by one-note characters and bogged down by an uneven tone, Big Eyes ultimately leaves you with the impression that it does not paint a complete picture of events. The film’s approach is too straightforward and uninspiring, especially coming from someone like Tim Burton, whose trademark offbeat touch is mostly missing from this subdued outing. But thanks largely to Amy Adams, Big Eyes is worth a watch and at times even enjoyable, although the overall experience falls short of memorable.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 22nd February 2015 *

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