Some of you may be wondering why I’m posting this here and not my usual haunt of Hubpages. Well, Hubpages recently dicked me over. Remember my review of Night at the Museum 3? Well, it was unpublished on the claim it was copied from another site. I’m sure you all realize I’m ethical enough to not plagiarize anyone’s work, and I know for a fact the review wasn’t published anywhere else. Hubpages refuses to tell me where the offending article was posted so I can’t do anything about it.
So let’s talk about Big Eyes. I don’t mind admitting this was a movie I was really looking forward to. Tim Burton has gotten a lot of flack lately. “He keeps working with the same actors.” “He keeps making the same movie.” I’m going to come right out and admit I’ve liked Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yeah, what of it? Conversely, the negative reviews scared me away from Dark Shadows. (Yeah, I know that stands against so much of my philosophy of film, but I’m too busy to see something I’m not interested in.) I also think Burton’s gotten a bad wrap. For as much as people complain about the movies I already mentioned, how come nobody ever talks about Big Fish or Sweeny Todd? Those movies were REALLY good? (Though I suppose that giant poster you can see in the background of all my videos has given away my opinion on that first movie.)
So Tim Burton is trying something new – working with actors he’s never worked with before, tackling another biopic. Whether he’s doing this as a response to the critics or not, I do commend Burton for at least trying something new. Then again, trying something new doesn’t always pan out. How does Big Eyes hold up?
Big Eyes is the story of Margaret Keane who, as the title implies, painted pictures of children with very large eyes. After running away from her husband, Margaret marries Walter Keane, someone who’s a better con artist. Walter eventually convinces people that he is behind the big eyes paintings. He creates a dynasty first by selling the paintings, then selling the paintings as posters. Their marriage begins to dissolve as Margaret wants credit for her work – and even changes her style just so she can have something of her own.
In a way, making a biopic seems like a logical choice for Tim Burton. Aside from directing the stone classic Ed Wood, I’ve always felt Burton was better at creating memorable characters than he was at telling a story. I don’t hold that against him because I’m exactly the same way. And I say making a biopic works for him because that’s the idea of biopic: Spend a few hours with someone, getting to know them.
The two leads in this movie are pretty strong. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big fan of Amy Adams. In this film, she trades her bubbly energy for someone who is quite stifled. What I like about her performance is how restrained it is. As a viewer, we can tell she wants to do things, or say things, but for one reason or another – usually Walter – she can’t. And we can see that in her face or her body language.
It should probably be no surprise that Christoph Waltz as Walter Keane is the scene stealer in this one. Considering the nature of the film, that seems appropriate. As Walter Keane, Christoph Waltz plays the kind of guy who could talk people into walking through a brick wall. He can wheel and deal, and seemingly convince anyone of anything. Though at the same time, while this is an enjoyable character, Waltz’s performance does kind of dissolve into comical supervillain during the final act. Then again, I can’t complain too much as I was laughing at his antics.
Walter and Margaret do have an interesting relationship as their skills play off of each other. Margaret can paint, but has a very shy, quiet personality while Walter is a walking personality who could sell a dog to a cat person. I also liked watching the way the wheels turn in his head – Walter has to figure out the meaning of the paintings when he’s not the one actually painting them. I also loved the relationship between the Keanes and an art critic that hates the Big Eyes paintings. Walter’s feud with this guy is kind of interesting on the surface, but what really sells it is the way Margaret has to live with this guy trashing the paintings that are actually her work, and not being able to say anything in her defense. Big Eyes also ranges from quiet to moments to high energy moments. And while this isn’t exactly Duck Soup or Young Frankenstein in the laughs department, there are some really funny moments.
If one defines good as a lack of bad, then Big Eyes is a good movie. However, one of the problems I had is that while Tim Burton avoids many of his usual tropes, he doesn’t really replace them with anything. Tim Burton doesn’t really show as much of his creative flair in this film. There are some sequences where Margaret begins hallucinating people as having her Big Eyes-style look, but these are far between. They are neat, but I’m not going to pretend I know what these sequences mean. As good as Big Eyes is, it’s kind of a risk-free film. The film is entertaining, but it breaks very little new ground. Overall, I would put it in the good-but-not-great category. I do recommend it, but as a rental.
Also, although this will likely be my last blog of 2014, my true “final word” on the year will be posted on Wednesday. However, sinceÂ it’s a video I’d like to say what I have to say here. 2014 wasn’t exactly a banner year for yours truly. However, all yous guys made it a little better. So for that I wanted to thank you. Although I have no reason to actually believe this, I have a feeling 2015 is going to be my year. And I look forward to sharing it with all of you.